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imageSYDNEY: Australian shares rose 0.7 percent on Thursday, underpinned by the financial sector as record overnight highs for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 boosted risk appetites.

Among banks, Westpac Banking Corp rallied 1.7 percent while biggest lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia climbed 1.1 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 31.4 points to 4,999.4 by 0201 GMT, after reaching an intraday high of 5,013.2. The index fell 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

Miguel Audencial, sales trader at CMC Markets, said it's hard to say if the market can stay above 5,000.

"If there is an indication that there will be a prolonged quantitative easing in the US further than the end of the year, the market is likely to have a sustained rally," he said.

US stocks climbed 1 percent on Wednesday with both the Dow and S&P 500 ending at historic highs as cyclical shares led the way higher for a second straight day.

Global miners were moderately softer. Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.4 percent and rival BHP Billiton Ltd fell 0.6 percent.

Copper dipped on Wednesday, giving up some gains from the previous session when it hit two-week highs, as some traders locked in profits and other investors remain concerned about sluggish demand amid weak Chinese copper imports.

Australia's employment fell a steeper-than-expected 36,100 in March as payback for a massive 74,000 increase the month before, while the jobless rate rose to its highest in more than three years at 5.6 percent.

Defensive stocks were mixed. Blood products maker CSL Ltd climbed 1.8 percent while bionic hearing implant maker Cochlear slipped 0.6 percent. Telecommunications giant Telstra Ltd added 0.6 percent, but gas provider Origin Energy lost 0.7 percent.

Gold miners were weaker after bullion fell 1.5 percent on Wednesday, its biggest one-day drop in 1-1/2 months, hit by signs that the US Federal Reserve is inching closer to ending its monetary stimulus program and by Cyprus's plan to sell its gold reserves to raise cash. Heavyweight gold miners Newcrest Mining Ltd lost 1.1 percent while Regis Resources Ltd plumbed 3.1 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was trading flat, or 0.3 points higher to 4,420.4.

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