January 18, 2018 / 12:48 AM / 2 months ago

Australia, NZ shares edge higher led by banks

* Australia’s benchmark index snaps 2 straight sessions of losses

* Financial stocks outperform other sectors on Wall Street rally

* NZ on track for third straight session of gains

Jan 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched higher on Thursday, led by financials, encouraged Wall Street’s surge to a record close and by Bank of America’s confidence that the new U.S. tax system would eventually benefit shareholders.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 percent, up 9.8 points to 6,025.60 by 0016 GMT.

“Financials stocks are featuring quite well after the news out of Bank of America,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The Aussie S&P/ASX 200 financials rose over half a percent, posting its biggest intraday percentage gain in nearly two weeks, with Westpac Banking Corp hauling the index higher by soaring 1.6 percent.

The other ‘Big Four’ banks gained between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent.

The Australian metals & mining index rose 0.1 percent before dipping slightly later, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto climbing 1.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

BHP Billiton reported a 3 percent rise in second quarter iron ore production on Thursday, and also expects to meet its full year production target.

The top gainer on the main index was medical technology company Nanosonics Ltd, which saw its best session in nearly seven weeks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.1 percent or 6.27 points to 8,303.94 by 0016 GMT.

New Zealand’s Westpac Banking Corporation and Comvita Ltd lead the gains, rising 1.8 percent apiece.

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Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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