May 3, 2018 / 6:39 AM / in 8 months

Australian shares hit 3-mth high on weaker local currency, materials; NZ up

* Aussie shares extend gains into a fifth session

* Materials lead gains on main index

* NZ at six-week high (Updates to close)

May 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to a three-month high on Thursday as investors cheered a weaker local currency, while firmer commodities prices boosted materials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.8 percent or 48.10 points to 6,098.3 at the close of trade, adding to the 0.6 percent gain on Wednesday.

While Wall Street wobbled overnight, European shares rose on the back of some strong earnings updates and a robust tech sector.

Demand for local stocks was partly underpinned by a weaker Australia dollar, which hit multi-month lows on Wednesday as its U.S. counterpart rode higher against most major currencies amid bets interest rates will rise at a faster pace in the United States.

Materials were the biggest gainers on the benchmark, with the metals and mining index climbing 1.7 percent to more than a fifteen week high on higher prices for iron ore, copper and aluminium.

The world’s biggest miner BHP gained 1 percent to its highest since Feb. 16, while South32 Ltd surged 4 percent.

Soaking up the improved sentiment, financial stocks also advanced, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rising 0.6 percent, while Westpac Banking Corp ticked up 0.8 percent.

Consumer staples rose to a record closing high supported by a rally in Woolworths Group Ltd. The grocery giant jumped 2.2 percent, extending gains after reporting an encouraging rise in third-quarter same-store food sales on Wednesday.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.6 percent or 52.64 points to finish the session at 8,546.88.

Consumer staples and telecommunication services underpinned the market, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd strengthening 1.4 percent and Spark New Zealand Ltd rising 1.3 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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