(Updates to close)
Australian shares rose for a third straight session on Thursday
on expectations that the European Central Bank would extend its
asset buying campaign at a policy meeting later in the day, with
upbeat Chinese import data adding to the bullish sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.2 percent, or 65.49
points, to end at 5,543.60.
The European Central Bank is expected to announce a
six-month extension to its quantitative easing programme,
according to a majority of economists polled by Reuters.
ECB President Mario Draghi said on Wednesday the bank will
look at a combination of policy tools and that ultra-easy
monetary policy has given governments in the region time for
Sentiment was further buoyed after China reported
unexpectedly strong trade figures, with exports and imports both
beating forecasts. Imports of major commodities including iron
ore, crude oil, coal, soybeans and copper all surged by volume
Australia is one of China's biggest commodity suppliers.
Big gains in material stocks helped push the main index
higher, with the material index rising 1.5 percent.
BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and
Rio Tinto gained from 1.2 percent to 3.1 percent.
Financials rose 1.7 percent with the 'Big Four'
Australian banks rising in a range of half a percent to 2.5
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4
percent or 26.24 points higher to finish the session at
6,916.01. Gains in consumer and financial shares offset losses
Insurer Tower Ltd was the biggest gainer among
financials rising 5.2 percent, while heavyweights Australia and
New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp
were among the top performers.
Drug retailer Ebos Group Ltd closed 1.5 percent
higher, while a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 3.4 percent.
(Reporting by Krishna V Kurup in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim