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Australia: Shares end higher as financials gain; NZ falls
[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Thursday, recouping early losses due to gains in financial stocks, while New Zealand extended falls from the previous session as worries over surging global Covid-19 cases dampened sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index swung into positive territory in the last hour of trade after spending most of the session in the red, closing up 0.25 per cent at 6,547.2 points.
US stocks closed steeply lower after a late-session sell-off on Wednesday as investors weighed surging Covid-19 infections and mounting shutdowns against encouraging vaccine developments.
Adding to the risk-off mood, the state of South Australia went into strict lockdown on Thursday to stifle the latest cluster of 23 novel coronavirus infections.
A vaccine is further down the track compared to the current trend of soaring infections and restrictions hampering economic recovery, said James Tao, a market analyst at CommSec.
"The good news is kind of being pushed to one side at the moment," Mr Tao said.
Financial stocks extended gains to a fourth day and hit their highest in more than eight months, with the "Big Four" banks climbing between 1.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent.
On the other side of the ledger, gold stocks touched their lowest in nearly five months, as optimism over the new vaccine dented the appeal of the safe-haven commodity.
Newcrest Mining closed down 2.6 per cent while ASX-listed shares of AngloGold Ashanti shed 4.2 per cent.
Miners shed 0.5 per cent while energy stocks added 0.3 per cent, helped by gains in Worley and Woodside Petroleum .
In New Zealand, the benchmark index closed 0.4 per cent lower at 12,557.13 points. Tourism Holdings, down 3.7 per cent, was the biggest percentage loser, followed by Serko, slipping 2 per cent.