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Australia shares rise 1.8 pct as banks rally, miners rebound
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SYDNEY, March 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares rallied 1.8 percent on Friday, led by the financial sector after the Dow Jones Industrial Average extended its run of record highs and as miners rebounded from early losses.
Westpac Banking Corp surged 2.5 percent, leading big bank stocks higher, while top mortgage lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia advanced 1.9 percent.
Global iron ore miners BHP Billiton Ltd rallied 1.3 percent and rival Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1 percent, bouncing back from previous session losses.
The S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session 88 points higher at 5,120.2, but was off 0.06 percent for the week. The index fell 1.2 percent on Thursday.
"The positive vibes stemming from the Dow Jones' winning streak appeared to rub off on local investors today with the ASX200 reversing course from Thursday's sell-off," said Tim Waterer, senior trader at CMC Markets.
The Dow Jones industrial average extended its winning run to 10 days on Thursday, a string of gains last seen in late 1996, and ended at another record high.
The Australian market has risen around 10 percent this year, aided by a relatively strong earnings season and growing optimism about the global economy.
"Initial glumness at the prospect of potentially no further rate cuts today gave way to a far cheerier mood from investors, which was more in alignment with the mood from offshore markets," said Waterer, referring to Thursday's strong domestic jobs data that forced traders to drastically reduce the chances of a near term rate cut.
Oil and gas firms helped boost the index after U.S. oil futures rose to the highest settlement price in two weeks on Thursday. Woodside Petroleum soared 2.6 percent while Santos climbed 1.6 percent.
Insurers were firmer: QBE Insurance jumped 2.7 percent, Suncorp added 1.9 percent, and Insurance Australia Group surged 2.1 percent.
In the defensive sector, food retailer Wesfarmers Ltd surged 2.5 percent, rival top supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd rallied 2.7 percent, and top telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd rose 0.7 percent.
Bucking the market, financial provider Macquarie Group plumbed 3 percent after the company reached an agreement to settle proceedings brought against it by investors.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.1 percent, trimming early gains to finish the session at 4,387.1 points.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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