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Australia: Shares tick higher on financials, tech

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Australian shares tracked broader Asia to trade higher on Wednesday, with financial and technology stocks leading the gains, although fears about the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak in China weighed on investor sentiment.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares tracked broader Asia to trade higher on Wednesday, with financial and technology stocks leading the gains, although fears about the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak in China weighed on investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4 per cent, or 25.3 points, to 7,019.90 by 0113 GMT, after a 1.4 per cent fall in the previous session.

Global financial markets stabilised after the World Health Organisation and China President Xi Jinping expressed confidence in Beijing's ability to control and contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

China's death toll from the virus has risen to 132 with nearly 1,500 new cases, heaping pressure on Beijing to control the disease.

"We'll probably find the (stock) index relatively stable as long as we don't get any bad news or escalation of the virus numbers coming out of China," said Henry Jennings, senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

Meanwhile, Australian inflation ticked higher in the final quarter of 2019 but core measures remained subdued despite three interest rate cuts, suggesting the central bank will have to do more to revive consumer prices.

Financial stocks advanced 0.8 per cent, with all of the "Big Four" banks trading higher.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 1.3 per cent, while National Australia Bank gained 0.8 per cent.

Upbeat earnings from Apple Inc overnight spurred a rally in Australian tech stocks, with the index rising as much as 2.1 per cent to a record high.

Afterpay and Xero gained 2.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

Firmer oil prices helped energy stocks climb about 0.8 per cent, with Santos and Worley rising over 1 per cent each.

Capping the gains, gold stocks dropped nearly 2 per cent on lower bullion prices.

Newcrest Mining, the country's largest independent gold miner, dropped 2.1 per cent, while St Barbara shed 2.5 per cent.

Among other losers, Treasury Wine Estates slumped more than 20 per cent in its worst ever intraday drop, after the company lowered its earnings expectations for fiscal 2020 and 2021 due to increased competition in the United States.

"Treasury is a growth stock and clearly the market was expecting a 15 per cent-20 per cent growth. Now we're looking at half that kind of growth. In this kind of jittery market, the market takes no prisoners," Mr Jennings said.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.3 per cent, or 35.62 points, to 11,720.73.

Infratil rose 2.1 per cent, while A2 Milk gained 0.5 per cent.

REUTERS