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00-006SYDNEY: Australian shares are set to start higher on Wednesday, after Wall Street rose as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reassured the market the US central bank would keep buying bonds and eased concerns of an early end to policy stimulus.


Local share price index futures 0.6 percent to 5007, a 3.4-point premium to the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index close. The benchmark fell 1 percent on Tuesday.


New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.7 percent to 4,267.7 in early trade.


US stocks rebounded from their worst decline since November after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the Fed's bond-buying stimulus and sales of new homes hit a 4-1/2-year high.


Copper edged up as US housing and consumer confidence data offset worries about a deadlocked Italian vote, and as investors were relieved to hear the Federal Reserve defend its ultra-loose monetary policy.


A powerful cyclone headed for Australia's Port Hedland, which handles a fifth of the world's seaborne-traded iron ore, stalled off the coast but was set to make landfall later on Wednesday with destructive winds and flooding.


Spot iron ore prices drifted to a one-month low on Tuesday as worries about China demand outweighed concerns about potential supply disruptions from Australia.


Australian mining contractor Macmahon Holdings said shareholders had approved the sale of its construction business to Leighton Holdings Ltd.


Australian shopping mall owner Westfield Group reported 2012 results in line with expectations, and upgraded its outlook for 2013.

Copyright Reuters, 2013

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