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Australian Shares Pushed Higher by Woodside Petroleum

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed slightly higher on Thursday, as firm bullion prices boosted gold stocks and Woodside Petroleum led energy names higher after reporting strong annual results.

The resources-heavy S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2% to 7,296.20 after Wednesday's 1.1% jump.

Gold stocks jumped 2.1% as bullion prices held ground near an eight-month high touched earlier this week. Heavyweights Northern Star Resources and Newcrest Mining climbed 4.4% and 1.5%, respectively.

Woodside Petroleum surged 4.1% as the oil and gas explorer said its annual profit more than tripled. This, along with an overnight rally in crude oil prices, helped the energy index close 0.9% higher. 

Miners climbed 0.6% after a three-day slide, even as iron ore prices remained pressured due to Beijing's sustained efforts to stem any market irregularities.

South32 advanced 1.1% on robust first-half earnings, while Rio Tinto and BHP Group rose 1.2% and 1.4%, respectively.

"We might be seeing some people starting to look at them (miners) for yields going forward," said Brad Smoling, managing director of Smoling Stockbroking.

Financials advanced 0.3%, with the so-called "Big Four" banks rising between 0.2% and 0.9%.

Bucking the trend, technology stocks slipped 2.9%, following an overnight drop in the Nasdaq.

Wesfarmers plunged 7.5% in its worst session since March 2020, as COVID-19 outbreaks and supply chain disruptions hit the retail conglomerate's first-half profit. 

Meanwhile, data showed Australia's unemployment rate stayed at 4.2% in January as a surge in coronavirus cases took more of a toll on hours worked than on jobs. 

Smoling said the report backed the Reserve Bank of Australia's decision to hold off on raising rates for the moment.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.1% to 12,256.82.

Reporting by Upasana Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

Source: Reuters

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