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Financials push Australian shares to near 9-month high; NZ snaps 11-day rally

* NZ slips as a2 Milk drags

* Australia shares rise for third straight day

* NAB closes branches nationwide on security threat (Updates to close)

Nov 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares hit a near nine-month high on Wednesday, bolstered by the financial sector after the country’s central bank governor assured that rising house prices were not a cause for concern, while New Zealand snapped an 11-day winning streak.

Rising for the third straight session, the S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.5% higher at 6,531.1, its highest closing since Feb. 27.

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe said he was not worried about rising home prices yet because demand is weaker due to slow population growth this year.

“Some of the dire predictions for the housing market have not come to fruition,” said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

“We’re seeing good lending numbers from the mortgage brokers as well, which has helped the banks.”

The financial sub-index closed up 1.7%, hitting its highest since early March. The ‘Big Four’ banks rose between 1.2% and 2.2%, despite National Australia Bank closing all its branches across the country due to a “physical security threat”.

“At the moment, the banking sector seems to be the one people are playing for,” Jennings said.

Other major sub indexes were subdued, with technology and gold stocks closing flat, while miners lost 0.4%.

Energy stocks fell 0.7% after bigger-than-expected build in U.S. crude stocks and weaker U.S. retail sales stoked fears over fuel demand. Shares of Oil Search and Santos were among the biggest drags.

Trading in Crown Resorts was halted, soon before an Australian gambling regulator said it was suspending the licence of the casino giant until completion of an inquiry, delaying its plan to open a A$2.2 billion resort in Sydney next month.

In New Zealand, the benchmark index closed 1.2% lower, snapping an eleven-session rally, dragged down by a2 Milk falling most in over seven weeks on an uncertain revenue forecast.

Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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