Banks, mining stocks lift Australian shares higher

FILE PHOTO: A board displaying stock prices is adorned with the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) logo in central Sydney, Australia, February 13, 2018. Picture taken February 13, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

AUSTRALIAN shares advanced on Wednesday, led by financials and mining stocks that tracked a hike in commodity prices, as demand prospects improved in top consumer China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 7,872 by 0051 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2% on Tuesday.

Globally, investors heaved a sigh of relief as U.S. Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller signalled an end to the interest rate hike cycle by saying the latest inflation data was "reassuring".

Meanwhile, minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's May meeting showed that the central bank had considered hiking rates given most of the recent economic data were stronger than expected.

Westpac analysts noted that the discussion had a "slightly more hawkish tinge" than the post-meeting statement but retained the broker's prediction of the first rate in November, with just three rate cuts in the cycle.

Financials rose 0.4% to their highest in seven weeks. The country's biggest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia inched 0.1% higher.

Miners climbed 0.6% to a more than four-month high. BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue gained between 1.7% and 0.4%, respectively.

Technology stocks tracked gains in their U.S. peers to rise 0.5%, set for a third consecutive session of gains.

Gold stocks rose 0.2%, while Northern Star Resources lost 0.8% and Evolution Mining fell 0.1%.

Healthcare stocks are on track to snap a three-day losing streak by advancing 0.5%.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4% to 11,728.3.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is scheduled to announce its cash rate during the day.

Market expects the central bank to hold it at a 15-year high of 5.5%, with the only one rate cut pinned for this year, according to a Reuters poll of economists. - Reuters

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