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Australia shares eke out third session of gains; NZ up

Australian shares closed slightly higher on Thursday, bolstered by gains in miners as market sentiment improved after Ch

Dec 13 2018

Australian shares closed slightly higher on Thursday, bolstered by gains in miners as market sentiment improved after China took steps to ease trade tensions with the United States.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session up 0.1 percent at 5,661.6, the benchmark's third straight day of gains.

As a part of pledges made when the leaders of the two nations met on Dec. 1, China executed its first major purchase of U.S. soybeans in more than six months, a commodity at the heart of the trade spat.

China also appears to be easing its high-tech industrial development push, dubbed "Made in China 2025," which has long provoked alarm in the West and much blowback from the United States.

Australia's resource-rich economy is heavily exposed to the Chinese market. The metals and mining index was the star performer, rising 1.3 percent, with diversified miner BHP Group  climbing to a one-month peak, and Rio Tinto hitting a near three-week high.

London copper prices moved higher on Thursday, reversing a slide in the previous session, amid constructive developments in U.S.-China trade relations.

Meanwhile, the financial index ended 0.5 percent higher after rising as much as 1.2 percent earlier in the day.

Australia and New Zealand Banking closed 1.2 percent higher while Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.12 percent.

Australia consumer sentiment for December rose 0.1 percent on Wednesday compared to 2.8 percent in November.

Greg McKenna of McKenna Macro, in a note to clients, said the Westpac consumer sentiment data on Wednesday was fairly benign because consumers do not fear an Australian interest rate rise any time soon.

Australia's central bank is seen likely to stand pat on rates at least until mid-2020, a Reuters poll showed, as a recent run of soft economic data quashed any probability of an earlier rate hike.

An interest rate hike is beneficial for banks as it allows them to earn more from the loans that they give out.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 percent, or 54.81 points, to 8,793.17.

Seafood business firm Sanford Ltd was the top performer in terms of percentage gains, rising as much as 3.2 percent.

Copyright Reuters, 2018