November 29, 2018 / 1:47 AM / 15 days ago

Australian shares track Wall St's Fed-led gains; NZ higher

* Aussie shares highest since mid-Nov

* BHP, Rio Tinto shares lift index

* NZ set for third straight gains

By Shanima A

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed to a more than two-week high on Thursday, tracking a Wall Street rally after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell signalled monetary policy tightening may be drawing to a close.

Gains were largely broad-based with index majors like financial and mining stocks serving as the main boosts to the index.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.7 percent, or 37.7 points, to 5,763 by 0102 GMT. The benchmark closed down 0.06 percent on Wednesday.

Powell said that the central bank’s policy rate is now “just below” estimates of a level that neither brakes nor boosts a healthy U.S. economy. The statements supported market sentiment, which has been recently weighed by global trade tensions.

Damien Hennessy, co-founder at Heuristic Investment Systems, said Powell’s comments have been interpreted by the market as a sign the Fed may raise rates at a slower pace than previously expected, providing some relief for investors.

In Australia, the metals and mining index rose 2 percent following strong iron ore and base metals prices.

Chinese iron ore futures recovered on Wednesday after a three-day slide, while LME copper closed 1.3 percent up.

Index heavyweight BHP Group rose as much as 2.5 percent. BHP said its Spence copper mine, its second largest copper mine in Chile, was operating normally again following a union strike.

Shares of global miner Rio Tinto Ltd gained 3.2 percent after the company said it would go ahead with a $2.6 billion investment in its Koodaideri iron ore mine in Western Australia.

Financial stocks followed their U.S. counterparts, rising as much as 1.1 percent. The index has lost about 11 percent this year after a government-backed inquiry into the sector found many instances of misconduct.

The “Big Four” banks gained in the range of 1.2 percent and 2 percent.

Defying the rally, waste management company Bingo Industries Ltd was the biggest intraday loser on the index, falling more than 13 percent after Australia’s competition regulator criticized its A$577.5 ($421.69 million) acquisition of rival Dial A Dump.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 percent, or 71.15 points, to 8785.11. The index was on course for its third consecutive session of gains, supported by financial and utilities stocks.

New Zealand-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp climbed to a more than 2-week high, while electricity generator Contact Energy hit its highest in one week. (Reporting by Shanima A in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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