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Australia, New Zealand: Shares follow Wall Street rally

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Friday, tracking gains on Wall Street after strong US economic data eased concerns about a cooling economy, with financials and healthcare stocks boosting the local benchmark.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.9 per cent, or 54.6 points, to 6,220.3 by 0033 GMT to a two-week high, and was on course for a weekly gain of 0.7 per cent.

On Wednesday, the Fed surprised markets with a policy statement that was more dovish than expected, abandoning projections for more rate hikes this year due to signs of softness in the US economy.

However, data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected and mid-Atlantic factory activity rebounded sharply, pointing to economic strength.

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Market voices on:

"The markets are seeing the world slightly differently after the Fed meeting and this is not an Australian-centric move. This is a global equity move driven by what we've seen in US stocks," said Chris Weston, Head of Research at Pepperstone.

Local financial stocks were on track to snap 10 sessions of declines, rising 0.4 per cent. Australia's "big four" banks rose between 0.7 per cent and 1 per cent. Interest rate-sensitive banking stocks fell 0.3 per cent on Thursday, after the Fed affirmed its dovish stance.

The healthcare sub-index advanced 2.4 per cent, with heavyweight CSL putting on as much as 2.8 per cent, while Cochlear was another major gainer, rising 3.1 per cent.

The ASX technology sub-index hit a record high, rising 1.3 per cent to track US peers after blue-chip Apple Inc boosted the sector on Wall Street.

Resource stocks declined 0.5 per cent, with gold stocks weighing on the index as prices retreated from three-week highs.

Top gold miners Newcrest Mining Land Evolution Mining fell 0.8 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

Gold producer St Barbara Ltd slumped more than 30 per cent after it said it would not proceed with the Gwalia Mass Extraction project in Western Australia and slashed its production outlook for the project.

Navitas Ltd tacked on 2.5 per cent, after the adult education provider agreed to a A$2.09 billion (S$2 billion) takeover offer by a consortium after trading hours on Thursday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 per cent or 67.53 points to 9,528.84 at 0038 GMT. The index was heading for its seventh straight weekly gain.

Diary processor Synlait Milk and Air New Zealand were the top percentage gainers on the index, rising 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS