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Australia: Shares end higher on financials; virus concerns weigh

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The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index close 0.2 per cent higher at 7,103.2.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended higher on Thursday on gains in financial stocks, although the benchmark pulled back from a record peak hit early in the session as new coronavirus cases in China surged.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index close 0.2 per cent higher at 7,103.2. The index closed 0.5 per cent higher on Wednesday.

National Australia Bank, the country's third-biggest lender, rose 1.4 per cent to a near three-month high after it said it was considering a fresh share sale and would revamp its strategy.

That helped the wider financials index rise as much as 1 per cent to its highest since Oct 28.

"Clearly the coronavirus is at the heart of market considerations at the moment ... every major market in the region is in the red now," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended slightly lower at 11,880.84, snapping two straight sessions of gains.

REUTERS