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News: Australian shares resume rally but New Zealand stocks edge lower

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    SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares regained momentum on Wednesday, led by financial stocks on hopes of more easing in global monetary policy although New Zealand stocks retreated slightly from record highs after their run higher.

    Both indexes gained 3.8 percent last week, but in recent sessions the rally has flattened, as gains slowed on Wall Street.

    At 0145 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index (xjo) added 21.5 points to 5,472.8, a gain of 0.4 percent. The benchmark had closed 0.1 percent lower on Tuesday, ending an eight-session rally.

    "We have seen markets stalling a bit of late and lacking a bit of direction. But today we're seeing some very strong reactions, especially in the healthcare and IT space, where a number of companies are quite happy to see the Aussie dollar weaken," said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at broker IG Markets.

    "Hopefully, this momentum holds into the close - we are getting close to the 5,500-point level, which is a key psychological level for the index to break."

    Financial stocks were higher with insurer QBE (QBE) adding 2.4 percent and Australia's big four banks all in positive territory. Westpac Banking Corp (WBC) led the quartet, adding 0.83 percent. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) rose 0.58 percent, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) added 0.7 percent and National Australia Bank (NAB) edged up 0.19 percent.

    Healthcare stocks also gained, with liver-focused medical device company Sirtex Medical Ltd (SRX) adding 4.4 percent, service provider Ramsay Health Care Ltd (RHC) gaining 3.4 percent and biopharmaceutical researcher CSL Ltd (CSL) adding 2 percent.

    The mining sector weighed on the index with BHP Billiton Ltd (BHP) stocks down 2.8 percent after the company announced it had missed its iron ore output target for fiscal 2016, due to the Samarco disaster in Brazil.

    Falling iron ore prices weighed on other miners, such as BHP spin-off South32 Ltd , which lost 2.7 percent, Rio Tinto Ltd (RIO), which fell 2.5 percent and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG), which fell 1.9 percent.

    New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (nz50) fell 0.2 percent or 12 points Wednesday to 7,143.01, tracking a mixed night on Wall Street.

    The biggest gainers were Steel & Tube (STU), up 2.0 percent and New Zealand Refining (NZR), up 1.6 percent. Earlier on Wednesday, Refining it said its gross refinery margin for the May-June period was at the top end of its historical margin range.

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