April 4, 2018 / 6:52 AM / 23 days ago

Australia shares gain for first day in 4; NZ also up

* Aussie and NZ shares of a2 Milk among top gainers on both benchmarks

* CBA, NAB and Westpac reverse trend to end higher (Updates to close)

By Susan Mathew

April 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares snapped a three-day losing streak to end higher on Wednesday as real estate and consumer stocks perked up after positive home building and retail sales data.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.2 percent, or 9.5 points, at 5,761.4.

Investors bought real estate stocks after data showed that though approvals to build new homes eased 6.2 percent in February, overall home building is holding up better than many analysts had expected, with strength showing through in detached houses where approvals hit their highest in almost two years.

Mall operator stocks Scentre Group and property developer Mirvac Group rose 2.4 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Consumer stocks took heart from data showing that Australian retail sales rebounded, beating expectations, a sign that consumers may be coming out of the doldrums and contribute to economic growth.

Infant formula maker Bellamy’s Australia, up 7.1 percent, and dairy company a2 Milk, up 5.1 percent, were the top gainers on the benchmark.

Three of the ‘Big four’ were back in the black, after having fallen earlier in the session, ending 0.3 percent to 0.8 percent higher, while ANZ continued to fall.

On the ASX All Ordinaries index, Blue Sky Alternative Investments was the worst performer, down 18.6 percent, as it resumed trading after U.S. short-seller Glaucus Research Group claimed it had overstated its size, exaggerated performance and over-valued assets.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8 percent, or 68.15 points, to finish the session at 8,398.08.

Dairy companies led gains with Synlait Milk rising 4.6 percent and a2 Milk gaining 3.6 percent.

Air New Zealand climbed 3.6 percent. The airline company said it would not renew its alliance with Virgin Australia, covering flights between the two countries, ending a 7-year alliance between the two companies.

Virgin Australia shares ended 4.4 percent lower after the announcement. (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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