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Australia: Shares rise on oil, hopes of pandemic peaking in US
[BENGALURU] Australian shares rose more than 2 per cent on Thursday, tracking gains on Wall Street as hopes that the new coronavirus pandemic is peaking in the United States bolstered sentiment, while a jump in crude oil prices lifted energy stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 2.2 per cent to 5,320.1 by 0010 GMT after a 0.9 per cent drop on Wednesday. For the week, it was up more than 4 per cent.
Overnight, all three major US indexes climbed between 2.6 per cent and 3.4 per cent on hopes that the outbreak in the United States was nearing a peak.
In New York, new hospitalisations fell to 586 on Tuesday, down from 656 a day earlier, while other data suggested the state was "bending the curve" and gaining some control over the rate of infections, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
"Signs that the number of new daily coronavirus cases is plateauing are driving expectations that social distancing measures will be lifted soon in parts of the world," Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp, said in a note.
"Relaxing social distancing is the new 'risk-on' barometer."
In Australia, energy stocks were the top gainers, rising 3.8 per cent, as US crude futures jumped nearly 6% on expectations that top oil producers would agree on production cuts at a meeting later in the day.
Woodside Petroleum advanced 3.6 per cent, while Santos climbed 4.5 per cent to its highest in nearly a month.
Heavyweight financials gained 2.6 per cent, with all the "Big Four" banks trading in positive territory. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia and peer Westpac Banking Corp gained up to 3 per cent each.
Among miners, Fortescue Metals Group rose 2.5 per cent, while Rio Tinto ticked up 1.6 per cent, a day after it said it would go ahead with its US$3.7 billion dividend payment plan this month.
Healthcare stocks added 3.3 per cent, with biotech firm CSL jumping 4.4 per cent after the company reaffirmed its profit forecast for 2020.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose as much as 0.9 per cent to 10,120.89.
Banks and utilities were among the top gainers, with Westpac Banking Corp's local unit and electricity generator Contact Energy rising 2.6 per cent each.
Financial markets in Australia and New Zealand will be closed for holidays on Friday and Monday, and will resume trading on Tuesday, April 14.