Australian shares advanced on Friday, helped by gains in heavyweight financial and commodity stocks, after weaker-than expected U.S. retail sales data boosted prospects of a June rate cut by the Federal Reserve.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.7% higher at 7,658.3 points, its highest close since Feb. 8. The benchmark gained only 0.2% for the week.

U.S. retail sales dropped 0.8% in January, leaving investors less stressed about the hotter than expected inflation data from Tuesday, with markets now pricing in a Fed rate cut in June.

"The softer U.S. retail sales print has investors feeling better about the interest rate outlook, and equity markets have risen as a consequence," Tim Waterer, Chief Market Analyst at KCM Trade, said.

In Sydney, mining stocks closed 1.6% higher on strong underlying commodity prices, marking their best day since mid-December 2023.

However, the sub-index clocked losses for a second consecutive week.

Heavy-weight miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue gained between 1% and 1.2%.

Financial stocks closed 0.6% higher, with "Big Four" banks gaining between 0.7% and 1.9%.

Gold stocks and energy stocks gained 2% and 1%, respectively, at close.

Lithium miners emerged as top gainers on the benchmark as Liontown Resources, Sayona Mining, Core Lithium gained between 11.9% and 7.8%.

Australia classified nickel as "critical mineral", as its prime minister prepared wider policy support for the green energy industry.

In corporate news, Insurance Australia Group fell 4.3% while QBE Insurance Group fell 1.7% after their results missed analyst estimates.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed the session 0.7% higher at 11,724.48.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) governor said the central bank's current 2% mid-point inflation target remained appropriate, as it struck a "right balance between the costs and benefits of inflation". (Reporting by Sherin Sunny in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala)