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Australia, New Zealand: Shares climb as more countries emerge from lockdown

[BENGALURU] Australian stocks rose on Monday as investors took comfort in the possibility of countries reopening from the coronavirus-led lockdown and fueling an economic recovery, while safe-haven gold miners got a boost from renewed Sino-US trade tensions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.9 per cent at 5,452.9 points, as of 0056 GMT. The benchmark closed 1.4 per cent firmer on Friday.

Summer weather is enticing much of the world to emerge from the lockdown as centres of the outbreak from New York to Italy and Spain gradually lift restrictions that have kept millions cooped up for months.

Australia is in the middle of a three-step plan to relax lockdown measures and restart its economy, with its most populous state, New South Wales, easing curbs on Friday.

However, some uncertainty arose on the trade front as Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Sunday that Beijing had not yet responded to Australia's calls to mend frayed trade relations after Canberra called for an international enquiry into the origins of the pandemic.

Gold stocks jumped as much as 6.5 per cent, hitting their highest since last August, as flaring US-China trade tensions fuelled economic uncertainty, sending bullion prices up.

Newcrest Mining and AngloGold Ashanti surged up to 6.5 per cent and 9.6 per cent, respectively.

"With interest rates near 0 per cent, global opportunity cost of owning gold remains alternatively attractive to currency hedges as the path of the US-China trade war could be paving the way higher with gold bars," Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp, said in a note.

China's commerce ministry said it would take necessary steps to safeguard interests of Chinese firms following the latest rules against telecoms equipment supplier Huawei Technologies by the United States.

An sharp jump in iron ore prices late Friday saw heavyweight miners climb 3.7 per cent.

BHP Group, the world's biggest miner, gained as much as 3.4 per cent, while iron ore giant Rio Tinto rose 3.1 per cent.

China iron ore futures scaled a 9-1/2-month peak on Friday after economic data reflected recovery and robust demand in the world's top steel-producing nation.

Healthcare stocks added 1.7 per cent, with industry giant CSL and hospital operator Ramsay Health Care gaining up to 2.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

Energy stocks gained 3.3 per cent on the heels of an uptick in demand for oil as countries across the world restart activity and ease travel curbs.

The financial sub-index traded in the red, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia easing 0.7 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent to 10,768.23 points.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.9 per cent, while electricity generator Meridian Energy added 3.6 per cent to the index.


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