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Australia: Shares stand pat ahead of US stimulus plan, earnings

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Australian shares held steady on Thursday as investors refrained from big bets ahead of the earnings season and a stimulus plan from the United States, while buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay led a surge in technology stocks.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares held steady on Thursday as investors refrained from big bets ahead of the earnings season and a stimulus plan from the United States, while buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay led a surge in technology stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was largely unchanged at 6,686.6 points by 2313 GMT.

Moves on the bourse have been limited this week as markets await corporate earnings to gauge how quickly the economy may rebound from a coronavirus-driven slump, as well as details of President-elect Joe Biden's stimulus measures.

Overnight, Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index closed slightly higher, with dealers also eyeing Congress' impeachment hearings against President Donald Trump.

Australia's tech stocks snapped a three-day losing run to climb 2.5 per cent, led by a 5.2 per cent rise in shares of Afterpay .

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Research analysts at Morgan Stanley hiked their price target by more than 13 per cent on the BNPL bellwether and said they expect further growth in 2021.

Financial stocks rose 0.3 per cent with all the Big Four lenders trading higher. Westpac hit its highest level since Nov 26.

Gold stocks underperformed, however, slipping 1.7 per cent.

Resolute Mining fell 3.5 per cent and Silver Lake Resources lost 3.4 per cent.

Advancers outnumbered decliners on the ASX by 635 to 496, a 1.3-to-1 ratio. There were 65 new highs and 38 new lows.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index advanced 0.2 per cent to 13,120.28 points after three consecutive sessions of losses.

Meridian Energy rose as much as 3.2 per cent after an agreement with Rio Tinto that would allow the global miner's aluminium smelter in New Zealand to continue operations until December 2024.

REUTERS

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