(Updates to close)
Feb 15 Australian shares closed at their highest
in over 21 months on Wednesday with financials leading the
gains, helped by a rise in Commonwealth Bank of Australia
shares after it reported robust half-year earnings.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.9 percent, or 53.86
points, at 5,809.1, its highest close since May, 2015.
The benchmark finished 0.1 percent lower on Tuesday,
snapping 5 straight sessions of gains.
Commonwealth Bank, Australia's biggest company by market
value, reported a 2 percent rise in half-year cash profit,
helped by home lending.
The stock finished at its highest in over a month, up 2.3
percent and helped push the financial index up 1.7
Financial stocks also drew support from U.S. financials,
which guided Wall Street to a record high overnight after
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank will
likely need to raise interest rates at an upcoming meeting.
The Commonwealth Bank's 'Big Four' peers rose in a range of
1.3 percent to 2.4 percent.
The healthcare sector got a lift from a near 3-percent rise
in its biggest constituent CSL Ltd to the highest in 6
months after a rise in half-year profit that met expectations.
The biotherapeutics firm also reaffirmed its full-year
On the other hand, utilities and energy stocks posted some
losses as oil prices dipped.
Origin Energy fell 0.7 percent, while Santos
slid 0.5 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4
percent, or 21.9 points, higher at 7,180.03.
Gains were centred in financials and telcos.
Westpac's NZ-listed shares and Spark New Zealand
were among the biggest gainers, rising 2.5 percent
(Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard