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Australia: Shares end at 3-month high on rebound hopes; Fed in focus

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended at a three-month peak on Wednesday on signs of a rapid recovery from the coronavirus lockdown, though gains were capped as investors maintained a cautious stance ahead of a US Federal Reserve policy decision.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1 per cent to 6,148.4 at the close of trade, its highest since March 6.

A survey showed that Australian consumer sentiment rose for a second straight month this month, recouping losses incurred during the peak of the lockdown.

As Covid-19 cases dwindle, a public health official said Australia was on track to have largely eradicated the virus by July, while the country's most populous state, New South Wales, continued to relax restrictions.

Gains, however, were curbed as markets await clarity on the state of the US economy and stimulus measures from the Federal Reserve's meeting.

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"The key will be whether or not the Fed will revise their economic projections upward," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"If they do, we could see further legs to the current global market rally."

Gold stocks surged 2 per cent on firmer bullion prices with local shares of AngloGold Ashanti gaining 3.6 per cent and Northern Star Resources rising 1.6 per cent.

Tech stocks gained 3.1 per cent, tracking US peers overnight that drove the Nasdaq to a record high despite broader weakness.

Shares of Harvey Norman Holdings jumped 7.3 per cent after the electronics retailer declared a special dividend on the back of a spike in domestic sales.

Losses in Woodside Petroleum and Santos dragged the energy sub-index lower as oil prices dropped on oversupply fears.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent to 11,260.52.

"There are definitely challenges in the New Zealand economic recovery ahead, as reflected in the restructuring and redundancies announced in recent days," said Christina Leung, principal economist at New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

REUTERS

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