Australia shares end higher on financials, New Zealand hits three-month high

Australian shares ended higher on Friday with financials leading the gains after all three major indices on Wall Street hit life-time intraday highs. The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8 percent or 42.49 points to finish the session at 5,714.00. The index recorded a 1 percent gain this week after two weeks of losses. As the market resumed trading after the Australia Day holiday, investors played catch-up after the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 20,000 points for the first time on Wednesday.

U.S. stocks were flat on Thursday as investors paused following a two-day rally while the Dow stayed above 20,000.

The financial index rose 1.3 percent extending gains into a second session with the “Big Four” banks rising between 0.9 percent and 1.8 percent.

The metals and mining index, on the other hand, finished down nearly 1 percent after declining as much as 2.2 percent – its biggest intraday percentage loss since Dec. 16.

BHP Billiton Ltd slid as much as 2.2 percent to its biggest intraday percentage loss in over a month while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd rose as much as 1.6 percent to its highest in nearly 3 years.

London copper futures edged down on Friday, pulling back from a two-month high as the dollar strengthened, with trading volumes lean as the week-long Lunar New Year holiday kicks off in top metals consumer China.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing export prices surged 12.4 percent in the fourth quarter also helped improve market sentiment.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 percent or 20.93 points to finish the session at 7,134.26, its highest close since Oct. 7.

The stock index ended the week 1.2 percent higher extending gains into a sixth week.

Telecom and materials stocks led the gains on the index with Spark New Zealand Ltd ending 1.7 percent higher and Fletcher Building Ltd up 1.5 percent.

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