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Australia Shares End Near 3-Week High, Buoyed by Financials

Aug 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares registered their highest close in nearly three weeks on Monday, driven by gains among heavyweight financials, while a dip in new coronavirus infections in Victoria and renewed hopes of financial aid in the United States boosted risk sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 1.76% at 6,110.2 points at the end of trade.

The subindex for financial stocks soared 2.6% to its highest in over a week, with the ‘Big Four’ banks jumping in the range of between 2.8% and 3.5%.

“The financial sector has underperformed the market a little bit over the past few weeks, and this might be a catch up play before Commonwealth Bank’s results later this week,” said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

Signs that the lockdown measures in Victoria were having an effect, with daily new infections slowing to a near two-week low, helped shore up sentiment further.

“If the trend (of lowering cases in Victoria) can remain this way that stands to benefit the market”, Tao added.

The country as a whole though reported a record single day rise in COVID-19 deaths.

Meanwhile, attempts by the U.S. House Speaker and the U.S. Treasury Secretary at restarting COVID-19 aid talks on Sunday revived hopes of further government help in the face of the second coronavirus wave.

Among other sectors, healthcare stocks were 1.7% higher, with CSL Ltd and Sonic Healthcare Ltd gaining 2.2% and 2.3%, respectively.

Mining stocks gained nearly 1%, with BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group rising 1.4% and 2.1%, respectively.

Fortescue on Friday said it will review plans at an iron ore mine after an Indigenous group said a planned expansion threatened sacred sites.

Nearmap was among the top gainers on the benchmark index after brokerage Citi raised its price target on the company’s stock.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3%, helped by gains among financials and consumer stocks.

Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing byJacqueline Wong

Source: Reuters

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