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Australia shares buoyed by healththcare, energy; NZ up

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged higher on Monday, helped by index heavyweight CSL Group's rise to a record high, following a broker upgrade, and Woodside Petroleum's climb to a three-month peak.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.7 per cent firmer at 6,772.50. The benchmark finished marginally lower on Friday.

Brokerage UBS upgraded drugmaker CSL, one of Australia's biggest companies by market value, to "buy" from "neutral" and raised its price target to US$295 from US$265, citing improving margins.

"With CSL having embarked on plasma centre expansion well in advance of peers, we believe the company will continue to collect and grow ahead of market," UBS analyst Saul Hadassin said in a note to clients.

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CSL's near 4 per cent rise helped the Australian healthcare index advance about 2.8 per cent to a life high, at the close of the day's session. It provided the biggest boost to the benchmark index.

The energy sub-index ended almost 1 per cent higher at a near six-month high, helped by oil and gas major Woodside Petroleum which firmed 1.5 per cent, after the company entered a contractual agreement with DDG Operations Pty Ltd to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline.

Technology stocks climbed about 1 per cent to a near four-week peak, buoyed by fintech firm Afterpay Touch whose shares rose about 5 per cent after Citi upgraded the stock to "buy" from "neutral".

The financial index closed about 0.4 per cent higher, but gains were capped by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's near 3 per cent fall to a seven-month low, as the stock traded ex-dividend.

Bucking the trend, miners fell 0.6 per cent to a week's low, hit by a fall in iron ore prices, with Fortescue Metals Group as the top loser on the Australian benchmark.

The world's largest miner BHP Group slipped 0.3 per cent, while its rival Rio Tinto ended about 2.4 per cent lower to its lowest since Nov 4.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched 0.4 per cent, or 42.8 points, higher to finish the session at 10,919.79.

Summerset Group Holdings was the top gainer in the New Zealand benchmark, rising about 4 per cent after the aged care service provider reported quarterly sales of occupation rights of 165 versus sales of 141 in the preceeding quarter.