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Australia shares firm on US stimulus hopes, NZ rises

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Australian shares firmed on Monday, lifted by hopes that US lawmakers could soon reach a deal for fresh fiscal stimulus, even as a resurgence in Covid-19 infections at home led to a record number of daily deaths.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares firmed on Monday, lifted by hopes that US lawmakers could soon reach a deal for fresh fiscal stimulus, even as a resurgence in Covid-19 infections at home led to a record number of daily deaths.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent to 6,045.9 points by 0056 GMT, rebounding from a 0.6 per cent drop on Friday.

Investor sentiment was supported by expectations of further Covid-19 aid in the United States after the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Sunday they were open to restarting talks after weeks of failed negotiations.

Financial stocks rose 1.3 per cent and hit their highest level since July 31.

Gains on the sub-index were led by Magellan Financial Group , up 2.78 per cent, followed by Credit Corp Group, gaining 2.5 per cent.

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The Big Four lenders added between 1.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent, with two of them slated to report earnings this week.

Meanwhile, Australia continued to see a rising death toll from the pandemic, although the number of new infections in the country's virus hot spot - state of Victoria - fell to a near two-week low.

The gold sub-index dropped 0.5 per cent after bullion prices slumped on Friday and snapped their recent record-breaking rally.

The country's biggest gold miner, Newcrest Mining, gave up 1.2 per cent after confirming a Covid-19 case at its Lihir Island facility.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.5 per cent, as the Pacific island nation crossed more than 100 days without a domestic transmission of the virus.

The top percentage gainers on the index were Westpac Banking up 2.5 per cent, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group up 2.3 per cent and Pushpay Holdings up 2 per cent.

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