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Australia: Shares scale new highs on financials; New Zealand up

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Australian shares scaled fresh highs on Wednesday, driven by gains in financial stocks while a jump in materials heavyweight Fortescue Metals Group also lent support to the market.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares scaled fresh highs on Wednesday, driven by gains in financial stocks while a jump in materials heavyweight Fortescue Metals Group also lent support to the market.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent, or 47.90 points, to 7114.90 by 0124 GMT after a 0.2 per cent drop on Tuesday.

The fear of missing out is in play and investors don't want to miss out on this rally, said Henry Jennings, senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

"Maybe we are seen as a defensive market globally," he said.

Financial stocks gained 0.7 per cent, with both Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rising about 0.8 per cent.

However, National Australia Bank dropped 0.6 per cent after law firm Maurice Blackburn said it had filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 330,000 account holders against two entities of the lender for alleged breaches in pension laws.

Among other gainers, Fortescue extended gains into a fifth session and hit a record high after Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to "neutral" rating.

Healthcare stocks climbed about 0.5 per cent, with biotherapeutics company CSL rising to an all-time high.

Santos rose 0.5 per cent after the company posted record annual production, benefiting from higher gas output at its Western Australia assets.

Consumer stocks also advanced, with Woolworths Group and Coles Group rising 2 per cent and 1.8 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, investors remained concerned about the coronavirus outbreak in China, which has claimed six lives in Wuhan city.

China is the largest source of tourists to Australia, with more than 1 million people arriving last year and any travel restrictions are expected to hurt the tourism industry.

Shares of travel agent Webjet dropped 1 per cent, while those of casino operator Crown Resorts dipped 1.1 per cent.

Airline stocks also slipped, with Qantas Airways shedding 1.3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 34.81 points, to 11,839.95.

A2 Milk gained 1.7 per cent after global dairy prices surged again in the second auction of 2020 on Wednesday.

REUTERS