November 27, 2019 / 6:52 AM / 15 days ago

Australian shares end at record high on trade boost; NZ gains

(Updates to close)

Nov 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares hit their highest close ever on Wednesday, with mining stocks leading the rally, as investors factored in the growing likelihood of an interim China-U.S. trade deal.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that United States and China are close to an agreement on the first phase of a trade deal, after top negotiators from the two countries spoke by telephone and agreed to keep working on remaining issues.

Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed at 6,850.60, up 0.9% or 63.1 points, extending gains for a fourth consecutive session.

One of the greatest beneficiaries of easing hostilities with China - Australia’s biggest trading partner - are mining stocks, which ended 1.3% firmer.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto closed up 1.2% and 1.1%, respectively.

Westpac Banking Corp found little respite on Wednesday, as two of Australia’s top shareholder proxy advisers urged investors to vote out more directors of the lender after a money-laundering scandal.

The lender’s shares eased 0.2%, after closing 1.7% higher in the previous session following the CEO’s decision to step down and the chairman’s plan to bring forward his retirement.

All the other “Big Four” banks were trading in positive territory, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rising 1.2%.

Blue-chip stock Telstra Corp added 2.8% on upbeat outlook.

Elsewhere, convenience store operator Caltex Australia climbed past its Canadian rival Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc’ indicative offer of A$34.5.

Caltex shares closed marginally below the offer at A$34.48, after having jumped 2.3% earlier in the session. Several brokerages have said the offer is too low and Couche-Tard has indicated it is willing to engage with the Australian company.

The biggest gainer of the session was Bravura Solutions Ltd , which ended 14.5% higher after Goldman Sachs upgraded the software developer’s stock rating.

Shares of Woolworths Group Ltd marked a record closing high after the chief executive officer said he would forgo his bonus for the 2020 financial year as an underpayment scandal plagued the grocery chain.

In a highly anticipated speech, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe outlined a limited range of options for QE in Australia and set a high bar for its adoption.

In New Zealand, its benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.7% higher at 11,120.81.

Index heavyweight a2 Milk Company climbed 2%. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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