July 10, 2019 / 7:01 AM / 5 days ago

Australia shares supported by c.bank rate cut hopes; NZ hits record high

* a2 Milk leads gains after brokerages turn more bullish

* Market focus to turn to Fed Chairman’s testimony (Updates to close)

July 10 (Reuters) - Aussie shares ended higher on Wednesday on growing expectations the central bank will cut interest rates again to shore up weak demand, while financials firmed after S&P upgraded its outlook for the “Big Four” banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished up 0.4% or 24.1 points at 6,689.80, after easing 0.1% on Tuesday.

Data on Wednesday showed that consumers turned decidedly gloomier this month, a sign of further strain on an already struggling economy.

While the downbeat data added to a recent slew of disappointing economic reports, investors were hopeful the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut rates again to support a stuttering economy. Analysts also say the government will come under increasing pressure to provide more fiscal support.

Consumer stocks advanced, with the supermarket chains Woolworths Group Ltd and Coles Group climbing 1% to an over seven-week high and up 0.8% to an all-time record.

Top gainer a2 Milk Company surged 8% to its highest since April 30 after UBS and Goldman Sachs turned even more bullish on the stock.

The financial sector also benefited on a upgrade by S&P Global Rating of its outlook for the “Big Four” to “stable” from “negative” after the financial regulator slapped less than expected capital buffer requirement on them.

The move sent shares of the country’s fourth largest lender National Australia Bank Ltd 0.7% higher, while top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia gained 0.3%.

However, miners slipped 0.4%, limiting the gains on the benchmark.

The world’s biggest miner BHP Group Ltd was down 0.2%, while its Rio Tinto Ltd fell 0.7%.

Market focus will be on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony before the U.S. Congress on Wednesday and Thursday as investors look for clues to near term U.S. monetary policy.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index strengthened 1.1% or 112.03 points to finish the session at a record high of 10,650.14.

a2 Milk Company Ltd again led the gains, with the stock hitting a seven-week high.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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