Dec 8 Australian shares were higher for a third
consecutive session on Thursday with broad-based gains on
expectations that the European Central Bank would extend its
current stimulus programme at its policy meeting later in the
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 1.2 percent, or 68.10
points, higher at 5,545.7 at 0119 GMT.
The benchmark added nearly 1 percent in the previous session
when a contraction in quarterly GDP saw some investors hoping
for more stimulus from local policymakers.
A jump in basic materials stocks drove up the main index,
with major miners such as BHP Billiton, Fortescue
Metals Group and Rio Tinto gaining in a range
of 1 percent and 4 percent as iron ore prices rocket.
Rio Tinto and Fortescue were the top gainers on the index.
Sentiment was further elevated by expectations that the
European Central Bank (ECB) will announce a six-month extension
to its quantitative easing (QE) programme when it meets later in
ECB President Mario Draghi said last week that the bank will
look at a combination of policy tools in its meeting.
"I believe we are in a situation where we appear to be
developing a bit of year-end optimism, wherein markets sort of
react to anything positive," said Ric Spooner, chief market
strategist at CMC Markets.
Even if the ECB extends its QR programme by six months
beyond March, as expected, it will simply begin tapering six
months later, Spooner noted.
Financial stocks held the upward momentum which
began after Donald Trump was elected U.S. President, climbing to
a 15-month high. Trump's impending presidency is widely expected
to be likely to benefit financials.
The 'Big Four' Australian banks surged in a range of 1
percent to 2 percent.
Insurance Australia Group shone brightest among
financials, up 3.4 percent at its highest in 3 months, after the
insurer reaffirmed its full-year guidance.
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New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.25
percent, or 17.18 points higher, at 6,906.95. Gains in financial
and consumer shares offset losses in telcos.
Insurer Tower Ltd was the biggest gainer among
financials and on the main index, up 4 percent to its highest in
nearly a month.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac
Banking Corp, each adding 1.5 percent, were also among
the top performers.
A2 Milk Company, up 2 percent, entered its fourth
session of gains.
Spark New Zealand, which was nearly 2 percent
lower, dragged down telcos.
(Reporting by Rushil Dutta; Additional Reporting by Suhail
Hasan Bhat in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)