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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ticked up on Monday, following a positive lead from Wall Street. Financial stocks reversed losses from earlier in the session while healthcare counters gained on news of China cutting import tariffs.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3 per cent or 16.25 points to 5,998.00 by 0126 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.06 per cent on Friday.
Technology stocks led the the US S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record closing highs on Friday, with the S&P ending above 2,600 points for the first time.
"Without any major data to be released today, we expect the Australian market to follow the positive lead from international markets," said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives advisor at ASR Wealth Advisers.
Banks reversed losses earlier in the session and accounted for most of the gains on the benchmark, with the Australian financial index rising 0.2 per cent.
The 'Big Four' banks - Westpac Banking Corp, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd - gained between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent.
Australian stocks also cheered China's decision to cut import tariffs on medicines, food and apparel, driving the healthcare index to a record high.
China on Friday said it will cut import tariffs on consumer products ranging from meats and whisky to deodorant and cashmere clothes, as part of a drive to lower costs and help stimulate consumer spending at home.
China is Australia's largest trading partner and major developments there can influence the Australian dollar as well as affecting broader sentiment.
"This could be one of the encouraging announcements for Australia this year. Australian products are highly regarded globally, but especially by the Chinese for their reliability and quality. I would expect an additional boost as a result of Chinese tariff cuts," added Mr Chanel.
Biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd led the rally in healthcare stocks as it climbed to a record high, while Ramsay Health Care Ltd gained 1 per cent its highest since Aug 31.
Industrial stocks were also among the top gainers. Engineering services provider Downer EDI Ltd soared 4.9 per cent after it raised company's stand-alone forecast for financial year 2018.
Across the Tasman Sea New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.4 per cent or 33.94 points to 8,164.23.
Healthcare accounted for most of the gains, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd rising 2.6 per cent and Ryman Healthcare Ltd climbing to a record high.
Consumer staples followed closely, with dairy producer a2 Milk Company Ltd gaining 1.2 per cent.