(Updates to close) Australian shares rose for a third straight session on Thursday on expectations that the European Central Bank would extend its asset buying campaign at a policy meeting later in the day, with upbeat Chinese import data adding to the bullish sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.2 percent, or 65.49 points, to end at 5,543.60.
The European Central Bank is expected to announce a six-month extension to its quantitative easing programme, according to a majority of economists polled by Reuters.
ECB President Mario Draghi said on Wednesday the bank will look at a combination of policy tools and that ultra-easy monetary policy has given governments in the region time for reforms.
Sentiment was further buoyed after China reported unexpectedly strong trade figures, with exports and imports both beating forecasts. Imports of major commodities including iron ore, crude oil, coal, soybeans and copper all surged by volume in November.
Australia is one of China’s biggest commodity suppliers.
Big gains in material stocks helped push the main index higher, with the material index rising 1.5 percent.
BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto gained from 1.2 percent to 3.1 percent.
Financials rose 1.7 percent with the ‘Big Four’ Australian banks rising in a range of half a percent to 2.5 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4 percent or 26.24 points higher to finish the session at 6,916.01. Gains in consumer and financial shares offset losses in telcos.
Insurer Tower Ltd was the biggest gainer among financials rising 5.2 percent, while heavyweights Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp were among the top performers.
Drug retailer Ebos Group Ltd closed 1.5 percent higher, while a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 3.4 percent.
Reporting by Krishna V Kurup in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill