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Australia shares close at 16-month peak, aided by banking, consumer stocks
December 20, 2016 / 6:18 AM / a year ago

Australia shares close at 16-month peak, aided by banking, consumer stocks

(Updates to close)

Dec 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares reached their highest close in more than 16 months on Tuesday, with banking and consumer stocks taking the spotlight.

Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s last policy meeting showed that it expressed cautious optimism about the country’s economic prospects, while showing some concerns over low wage growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.52 percent or 29.02 points higher at 5591.1, its highest closing level since Aug. 6, 2015.

The “Big Four” banks ended in positive territory with National Australia Bank Ltd and Commonwealth Bank of Australia each adding slightly more than 1 percent.

Retail giant Wesfarmers Ltd rose for a third straight day ,closing 1.1 percent up, while Woolworths ended 1.8 percent higher.

Iron ore miners and steelmakers fell as Chinese steel and iron ore futures extended their losing streak into a fifth day. The benchmark metal index declined as much as 0.7 pct to its lowest in a month.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed early gains and closed steady, inching up 3.42 points to 6789.67.

Shares of Westpac Banking Corp finished 0.98 percent higher while Australia and New Zealand Bank rose a fifth straight day, adding 0.89 percent. (Reporting by Anusha Ravindranath in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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