(Updates to close)
Dec 21 Australian shares closed at their highest
in more than 16 months in thin trade on Wednesday, led by
materials and financial stocks as investor sentiment was boosted
by Wall Street's record run overnight.
The NASDAQ Composite rose to record highs while the
Dow Jones industrial average flirted with the 20,000
point mark. The rally was fuelled by financials.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 percent, or 22.43
points, to 5,613.5, its highest closing level since Aug. 5,
Financial stocks followed suit to close at their
highest in over 16 months, in step with the gains of their U.S.
National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New
Zealand Banking Group Ltd led the pack, both closing at
Miners jumped 1.4 percent, aided by recovering
copper and gold prices.
BHP Billiton Ltd lifted the main index most,
gaining over 1 percent, while Rio Tinto Ltd added 1.5
Energy stocks gained with oil prices nudging up over
expectations of reduction in U.S. crude inventory ahead of data
to be announced later in the day.
Oil Search Ltd gained about 1 percent and
Whitehaven Coal Ltd was up 3 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.19
percent higher at 6,802.76. There were gains in consumer and
materials stocks, but utilities, real estate and health care
a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 5.9 percent, while
Fletcher Building Ltd rose 3.4 percent, its highest
intraday jump since Nov 14.
(Reporting by Geo Tharappel in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric