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Australia: Shares end firmer on tech boost, US stimulus prospects

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Australian shares ended higher on Thursday, as investors took cues from an upbeat Wall Street session on US stimulus prospects, with gains powered by domestic tech sector as buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay surged around 10 per cent.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended higher on Thursday, as investors took cues from an upbeat Wall Street session on US stimulus prospects, with gains powered by domestic tech sector as buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay surged around 10 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index extended gains to a second session, ending 0.43 per cent higher at 6,715.3 points.

"I haven't seen much in the way of huge impactful news, so the markets are happy to follow a relatively okay US session," said Nick Twidale, chief executive officer of APAC, FP Markets.

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index closed slightly higher on Wednesday, as investors waited for details of the next US fiscal stimulus plan and as Congress began President Donald Trump's impeachment hearings.

"I would classify it as hopefully bullish," Mr Twidale said.

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Back home, tech stocks were the stand-outs of the session on Thursday, closing 4.7 per cent higher after three straight days of losses.

Afterpay led gains in the sector after Morgan Stanley raised its price target by over 13 per cent, on expectations that it would continue building a global BNPL platform in 2021.

Also driving Australian BNPLs higher was the stellar Nasdaq debut of Affirm Holdings, which ended its first day with a valuation of more than US$23 billion.

Twidale expects technology stocks to continue to benefit as long as the investors remain in risk-on mode, as the market looks to move back to normalisation in 2021.

Financials climbed 0.8 per cent, with the so-called "Big Four" banks adding between 0.4 per cent and 1.9 per cent.

On the downside, gold stocks and miners lost 1.5 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively, brought down by falling gold prices as US Treasury yields and the dollar rebounded.

Energy stocks closed 0.3 per cent lower, tracking a dip in oil prices, but a nearly 3 per cent jump in Whitehaven Coal's shares after a 29 per cent surge in the coal miner's quarterly output limited losses in the sub-index.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 0.03 per cent to finish flat.

REUTERS

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