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Australia shares edge up, AMP jumps on plan to trim business risk; NZ also rise
February 9, 2017 / 5:47 AM / 7 months ago

Australia shares edge up, AMP jumps on plan to trim business risk; NZ also rise

(Updates to close)

Feb 9 (Reuters) - Australian stocks ended slightly up on Thursday, supported by shares in the country’s biggest wealth manager, AMP Ltd, rising sharply on its plans to trim exposure to its troubled life insurance business.

The S&P/ASX 200 index tacked on 0.2 percent, or 13.23 points, to 5,664.6 at the close of trade. The benchmark climbed 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

Real estate companies GPT Group and Westfield Corp rose 3 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.

The stocks appeared to take their lead from industry data showing the housing market remained sturdy despite a slowdown in price gains.

AMP Ltd advanced 4 percent after it said it wanted to strike a second reinsurance deal for its life insurance unit to reduce its financial exposure to the troubled business.

Insurer Suncorp Group Ltd closed nearly 1 percent higher after it said it will consider the sale of its A$2 billion ($1.52 billion) life insurance division.

Among the other big gainers was AGL Energy, which ended 4.4 percent higher on news it expected electricity prices to climb further, offsetting pain in its gas business.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 percent or 55.36 points to finish the session at 7,121.63, helped by expectations central bank policy will remain stimulatory for a few more years to come.

The country’s central bank held the official cash rate steady at 1.75 percent, and flagged it could remain there for two years or more.

Casino operator SkyCity Entertainment jumped as much as 7 percent, recording its biggest intraday percentage gain in more than a year, on strong growth in Auckland business during the second quarter. ($1 = 1.3116 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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