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Australia: Shares gain as coronavirus spread slows; New Zealand near 1-month high

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Australian shares rose on Tuesday, taking cues from US and European equities overnight, as reports of slowing fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak raised optimism that the fight against the disease was reaching an inflection point.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose on Tuesday, taking cues from US and European equities overnight, as reports of slowing fatalities from the coronavirus outbreak raised optimism that the fight against the disease was reaching an inflection point.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained as much as 2.6 per cent to 5,423.10, its highest in more than three weeks, and was up 1.6 per cent by 0125 GMT.

Overnight, all three major US indexes clocked major gains, advancing more than 7 per cent each, while German shares jumped 5.8 per cent and the pan-European benchmark Stoxx 600 index ending 3.7 per cent higher.

"Globally, equity markets are responding to reports of declining infection and fatality rates in Europe, and the ending of the lockdown in Wuhan," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"An almost 6 per cent gain in German equities and more than 7 per cent jump in US equities overnight see Australian investors adding to yesterday's lift."

Both Italy and France reported a marked slowdown in the coronavirus death toll and new infections as of Sunday, while New York state witnessed a decline in daily new hospitalizations.

In Australia, the death toll rose to 40 on Monday, with more than 5,700 confirmed cases. The country has seen a sharp drop in the daily rate of new cases after closing national and state borders, and imposing restrictions on businesses and public life.

The heavyweight financials sub-index rose 3.5 per cent, with the Big Four banks adding nearly 4 per cent each. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's top lender, and Westpac Banking Corp gained up to 3.7 per cent each.

Mining stocks added 3 per cent, marking their third consecutive session of gains, with heavyweights Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group up 3.4 per cent and 6.5 per cent, respectively.

Energy stocks climbed for a seventh straight session, rising 3.4 per cent. Woodside Petroleum added 3.5 per cent, while Santos soared nearly 7 per cent.

Meanwhile, Oil Search said it would raise up to A$1.16 billion (S$1.01 billion) through a discounted share sale and cut costs as it looks to weather a prolonged period of weak oil prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index advanced as much as 2.8 per cent to 10,040.98, its highest in nearly a month.

New Zealand, under lockdown since March 25, has recorded just over 1,100 confirmed cases, with one death linked to the virus.

Westpac Banking Corp's shares in New Zealand were up nearly 5 per cent, while electricity generator Meridian Energy advanced 5.8 per cent.

REUTERS

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