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Australian shares end at 2-week high on miners, financials boost

* Benchmark index rises for 4th session

* Miners snap 4-day losing streak

* “Big Four” banks up between 0.6% and 2.2% (Updates to close)

May 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at a two-week high on Tuesday, marking a positive finish for a fourth straight session, as heavyweight miners gained on firmer iron ore prices and financial stocks tracked U.S. peers higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.98% at 7,115.2, its highest closing level since May 10.

“Financial stocks led quite well on Wall Street overnight, which gave us a good lead here,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

The financial index, up 1.1%, extended gains to a fourth session to hit its highest close since Feb. 21. The so-called “big four” banks rose between 0.5% and 0.9%.

“Financials are equipped to weather the storm if we see that rise in inflation, as we may ” Smoling added.

Inflation concerns have loomed over equity markets in the recent weeks, as high inflation numbers could revive talk of an early tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The Australian metals and mining index rose about 1.2%, snapping a four-session losing streak, as iron ore futures in Asia inched higher amid China’s warning against commodity price manipulation and speculative trading.

Heavyweights Rio Tinto, BHP Group, and Fortescue Metals added between 1.4% and 1.7%.

On the downside, the gold index slipped over 0.6% as bullion prices fell on upbeat risk sentiment after inflation worries ebbed.

Top loser Resolute Mining closed down 6.7%, marking its worst day since April 15. Northern Star Resources and Newcrest Mining shed 0.7% each.

The energy index rose 0.3%, tracking an uptick in oil prices. Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy added 0.4% and 2.4%, respectively.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.9% to 12,341.2.

New Zealand’s central bank said on Tuesday it was likely to be “patient” over the stimulus policy as it seeks to reach maximum employment. (Reporting by Tejaswi Marthi in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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