(Updates to close)
Dec 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Thursday, powered by financial stocks, as investors kept an eye out for U.S. economic data expected later in the day for further cues.
Investors are waiting for a range of indicators, including the third revision of U.S. third-quarter gross domestic product, to gauge the strength of the economy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index extended gains into a fourth straight session, climbing 0.5 percent, or 30.43 points, to 5,643.9 at the close of trade.
The “Big Four” banks closed up 0.8 percent to 1.4 percent.
Sentiment was boosted by expectations that Australian companies’ profits are likely to grow in the fiscal year ending June 2017, following two straight years of declines.
Retail giants Wesfarmers and Woolworths gained 0.8 percent and 1.5 percent respectively.
Oil major Woodside Petroleum closed more than 1 percent firmer after oil prices edged higher in tepid Asian trade, supported by a weaker dollar.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose for a fifth straight day, gaining 0.7 percent, or 49.1 points, to finish the session at 6,851.87.
Official data on Thursday showed gross domestic product rose 1.1 percent in the third quarter, above economists’ forecast of a gain of 0.9 percent, putting New Zealand among the rich world’s fastest-growing nations with annualised growth of 3.5 percent.
The healthcare sector accounted for most of the gains. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was the top performer, jumping 4 percent.
Trustpower Ltd rose 2.2 percent while NZX Ltd closed 2 percent higher.
Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer