Australia: Shares end at over seven-month high as restrictions ease in Victoria

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended at their highest in more than seven months on Monday after the state of Victoria, the country's coronavirus outbreak epicentre, eased months-long movement restrictions.

Driven by gains in financial and healthcare stocks, the S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.9 per cent to 6,229.40 - its highest since March 6.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, will see more freedom of movement as of Monday, with the state government eyeing the reopening of restaurants and retail stores by Nov 1.

"In terms of economic recovery, the first step is obviously (to) get the economy moving again and that involves scaling back restrictions," said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

The heavyweight financial index climbed 1.2 per cent, with all the "Big Four" banks finishing higher.

"The possible increase in positive business conditions translates into less pressure on the financials," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Global sentiment also improved after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised hopes that a coronavirus relief package could be passed before the presidential election.

Data released earlier on Monday showed China's economic recovery accelerated in the third quarter, but missed expectations. Strong monthly figures, however, pointed to an expansion in economic activity.

The data from China is "still a pretty decent number considering you've got basically every other major economy in the world going backwards ... and by some margin as well", Mr Tao said.

Healthcare stocks gained 1.6 per cent to close at a near two-month high, propped up by a 1.7 per cent rise in CSL and a 2.2 per cent climb in Cochlear.

Miner South32 posted its biggest one-day percentage gain since Aug 21 after posting a 3.2 per cent rise in quarterly manganese ore production.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, slipped 0.4 per cent to 12,385.25.

The top losers were Meridian Energy, down 3.54 per cent, followed by Serko, losing 3.27 per cent.


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