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Dec 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares were at their highest in over 16 months on Wednesday, albeit in thin trade, pushed up by a mix of materials and financial stocks following stellar gains on Wall Street overnight.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.6 percent, or 33.43 points, higher at 5,624.5 by 0124 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.5 percent in the previous session.
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.
Australian financial stocks, which have been on a joyride ever since Donald Trump's election as U.S. President, took cue from their U.S. counterparts and scaled 16-month highs.
The "Big Four" Australian banks have risen in range of 10 percent to 16 percent since Nov. 9.
Basic material stocks, which trod a rocky path all of last week as commodity prices began pulling back, saw some support from a recovery in base metals prices, which in turn helped the big miners. [IRON ORE/]
BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were up over 1 percent each.
Nickel miners Western Areas and Independence Group added 1.2 percent and nearly 4 percent respectively, while copper miner OZ Minerals was 3.8 percent up.
James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock-broking at Argonaut sees a quantum shift in terms of sentiment for resources this year.
"Some of these coal stocks too are looking to have a great finish to the year. U.S. coal prices, for instance, have been have been supported by Trump's promise to not close down coal mines but to make them the major source of energy for the U.S. consumer."
Miner Whitehaven Coal has added nearly 280 percent so far this year with the majority of the gains in the latter half. Its 3.2 percent gain led Wednesday's rise in energy stocks.
Oil stocks took heart from the underlying bullish sentiment on oil prices. Major players Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search were up 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent respectively.
Sydney Airport Holdings fell to over a month low, down 3.7 percent, after reports that the Commonwealth Government said it would not directly fund a proposed new airport for Western Sydney.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up for a fourth straight session, 0.6 percent higher at 6,832.62 with gains centered around consumer stocks and industrials.
SKY Network Television Ltd up 3.7 percent, and Fletcher Building Ltd up nearly 3 percent, were the benchmark's biggest gainers. (Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)