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Australia: Shares mark best day in 2 months on Wall Street lead; NZ up
[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended over 1 per cent higher on Thursday as investors took heart from a surge on Wall Street, which was spurred by former US Vice-President Joe Biden's pack-leading performance in the Democratic presidential primaries.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.1 per cent higher at 6,395.70, their biggest percentage gain since Jan 7, after all the three major US indices closed about 4 per cent higher overnight.
Furthering the boost to Wall Street from Mr Biden's surge, data showed services sector activity in the United States jumped to a one-year high in February. Additionally, the House of Representatives pledged a US$8.3 billion spending package to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.
Mr Biden's show of strength more or less ensures that Bernie Sanders and his socialist principles are out of the picture, and markets are cheering that, Christopher Conway, a senior investment adviser at Marcustoday said.
Mr Biden emerged as the front-runner in the presidential nomination race on Super Tuesday, cheering investors in the US healthcare sector, who are wary of Mr Biden's rival Bernie Sanders' push for a Medicare for All healthcare policy that would essentially abolish private insurance.
Tracking strength in US peers, the local healthcare sector added 2.7 per cent, marking its biggest intraday rise since Feb 19.
Bluechip firms CSL Ltd and US-based Resmed Inc advanced 3.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively.
Heavyweight financial stocks were among the biggest boosts to Australia's benchmark index, rising 0.5 per cent to break an eight-session losing streak.
Financial services firm Macquarie Group, and Insurance Australia Group were the top gainers, ending 3.5 per cent and 3.8 per cent higher, respectively.
However, top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia finished 0.5 per cent lower, marking its ninth straight session in the red.
The technology sector rose 1.5 per cent, with software maker Xero Ltd advancing 3.1 per cent, and buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay Ltd adding 3.6 per cent.
Internet services provider TPG Telecom hit an over one-year closing high after it raised its fiscal 2020 core earnings forecast.
Additionally, the country's competition regulator said it would not appeal a federal court approval for the merger of TPG and a local unit of Britain's Vodafone Group.
Meanwhile, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said a stimulus package expected within days would target sectors most affected by the epidemic, softening the blow from warnings that the virus outbreak would hurt current quarter economic growth.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained about 2 per cent to end at 11,640.890, clocking a three-day winning streak.
Utilities and the healthcare sectors were the top gainers, with electricity generator Meridian Energy adding 2.1 per cent, and Ryman Healthcare rising 5.5 per cent.