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Miners, financials lift Australian shares; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished higher on Wednesday, thanks to a surge in BHP Group stock after the world's biggest miner reported a rebound in iron ore output for the fourth quarter.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5 per cent to 6,673.30 at the close of trade, more than recouping the 0.2 per cent loss on Tuesday.

BHP reported a rebound in iron ore output in the fourth quarter after a cyclone hit production in March, and forecast modest output growth in 2019/20 amid a surge in prices.

While the miner's output was soft year on year, it was up 12 per cent on the March quarter, which typically is the weakest quarter due to Australian weather conditions.

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BHP's 1.4 per cent rise pushed up the mining index by 0.7 per cent. As iron ore prices pulled back from record levels on Wednesday, BHP's smaller rival Rio Tinto finished flat.

Iron ore miner Fortescue fell 2.1 per cent.

Gains in the financial sector after two straight sessions of losses further buttressed the benchmark index, with the country's top four banks gaining in the range of 0.1-0.7 per cent.

The energy sector was the major contributor to losses despite an uptick in oil prices after steep falls in the previous session.

The sub-index slid 0.3 per cent, with its biggest constituents Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd losing 0.3 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively.

Their smaller sector peer Oil Search slid 3.1 per cent to its lowest closing level in a week after Papua New Guinea's new prime minister pressed the company and its oil major partners to pay more tax on Tuesday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 3.6 points at 10,654.80.

Air New Zealand was the top advancer on the benchmark, adding 2.2 per cent. On the other hand, Fletcher Building's 3.5 per cent fall made it the top loser.

REUTERS