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Australia shares close higher on financials; NZ flat
March 17, 2017 / 7:28 AM / in 9 months

Australia shares close higher on financials; NZ flat

(Updates to close)

March 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Friday in their fourth consecutive session of gains, supported by a rise in financial stocks after two of the ‘Big Four’ banks increased their mortgage rates.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.2 percent to 5,799.60 points at the close of trade, gaining 0.4 percent for the week.

National Australia Bank raised interest rates on residential investment loans by 25 basis points to 5.80 percent on Thursday, while Westpac Banking said on Friday it would increase its variable home loan rate for owner occupiers by 3-8 basis points.

Westpac Banking closed 1.1 percent higher, while National Australia Bank ended up 0.53 percent.

On the other hand, supermarket operator Woolworths Ltd closed at its lowest in nearly two weeks, while Wesfarmers Ltd closed 0.2 percent down.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.1 percent, or 6.15 points, to finish the session at 7,158.14 points.

The region saw gains in real estate and industrials stocks with Kiwi Property Group Ltd closing at a one-week high, while Auckland International Airport Ltd closed 0.9 percent higher.

Consumer discretionary stocks were the biggest drag on the index with online marketplace operator Trade Me Group Ltd closing at a two-week low.

The benchmark index shed 0.3 percent this week. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Randy Fabi)

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