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Australia: Shares end higher as biggest states lift border curbs

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Monday with heavyweight energy and mining firms leading the charge, as lifting of border curbs in the country's two most populous states boosted risk appetite, while New Zealand ended firmer on record retail sales.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.3 per cent higher after rising as much as 0.8 per cent during the session.

New South Wales and Victoria reopened their borders on Monday after more than four months of closure to contain the Covid-19 spread.

"As long as we don't get a huge spike in coronavirus cases here in Australia and borders continue to reopen, all of that's going to be quite positive locally and if we get positive news on the vaccine front, that's going to be an additional boost", said Steven Daghlian, a market analyst at CommSec.

Oil prices extended gains, sending the energy sub-index up 2.8 per cent on hopes of a recovery in demand after successful vaccine trials.

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Ampol, among the biggest percentage gainers on ASX200, surged more than 8 per cent after the fuel supplier announced an off-market share buyback.

Reopening of the borders should see a surge in air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney, one of the busiest routes in the world before the pandemic.

The pandemic-hit travel and tourism stocks gained as states rolled back border closures, with Qantas, Sydney Airport and Regional Express all ending in the black.

The mining sub-index recorded its best session in two weeks with global miners BHP and Rio Tinto climbing 2.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

Theme park operator Village Roadshow surged nearly 17 per cent after receiving a sweetened takeover offer from BGH Capital, while bourse operator ASX fell on the news of country's corporate regulator launching an investigation into an outage at the country's stock exchange last week.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 0.5 per cent higher to finish the session at 12501.74.

The gains came as retail sales in the pacific island nation jumped by a record 28 per cent in the third quarter, recovering strongly from an historic 14.6 per cent drop the previous quarter.

REUTERS

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