Jan 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares are set to rise on Thursday and possibly even cross 7,000 points for the first time, after the United States and China inked a Phase 1 trade deal, with many hoping it will defuse an 18-month row between the world's two largest economies. Investors will also focus on quarterly reports from major resource and energy players, South32 Ltd , Whitehaven Coal and Woodside Petroleum - the country's largest listed oil and gas explorer. The local share price index futures rose 0.2%, a 47.8-point discount to the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index close. The benchmark ended about 0.5% higher on Wednesday. New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.1% or 10.15 points to 11,686.82 in early trade. (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru Editing by Chris Reese)
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