April 23, 2014 / 6:31 AM / 4 years ago

Australia shares rise 0.7 pct on banks, lower inflation

(Updates to close)

SYDNEY, April 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose 0.7 percent on Wednesday, backed by a lower inflation print for the first quarter and demand for banks that sent Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group to new record highs.

The major focus for the local market was a surprisingly low inflation report that greatly lessened the pressure for a hike in interest rates this year and sent the Australian dollar sharply lower.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced for its fifth consecutive session of gains, up 38.5 points to close at 5,517.8. It reached a new six-year high of 5,521.4 in the morning.

New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.7 percent to 5,142.9.

Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore & Shri Navaratnam

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