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Australia: Shares rise on gains in banks as regulator lifts dividend freeze

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Australian shares edged higher on Wednesday, boosted by strength in financials and gold stocks, although gains were capped as concerns lingered over the economic impact of the coronavirus.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged higher on Wednesday, boosted by strength in financials and gold stocks, although gains were capped as concerns lingered over the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.5 per cent at 6051.1 points by 0123 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.4 per cent down on Tuesday.

Financials climbed 2 per cent after the country's regulator withdrew a request for banks and insurers to freeze dividends due to the novel coronavirus.

Country's top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose over 2.4 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp were up more than 3 per cent each.

Gold stocks rose over 1 per cent, helped by an increase in bullion prices as US Federal Reserve policymakers began a meeting that is expected to provide more monetary stimulus to support the coronavirus-hit American economy.

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Chalice Gold Mines jumped more than 7 per cent after the maiden diamond drill programme at its Pyramid Hill project confirmed a large gold system at the Karri Prospect.

Among individual stocks, engineering contractor CIMIC Group gained over 6 per cent on talks to sell 50 per cent of its mining services business, Thiess.

However, other sub-indexes fell as an impasse in US economic stimulus negotiations and mixed corporate earnings reports in Europe dented global investor sentiment.

Concerns also lingered over the spike of coronavirus cases in the country, as Australian officials sent an emergency medical team to aged care homes in Melbourne to help contain a rapidly spreading outbreak of infections.

The tech sub-index fell as much as 1.5 per cent, tracking losses in Wall Street peers, to hit its lowest in nearly two weeks.

Buy-now-pay-later heavyweight Afterpay Ltd declined over 2.6 per cent and led losses on the sub-index.

Energy stocks were down 0.9 per cent, eyeing a fourth consecutive session of loss, as oil prices fell on Tuesday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent and was set to snap a five-day streak of losses on the back of gains in financials.

REUTERS

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