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Australian shares at 6-week high on strong health care sector; NZ jumps

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed near a six-week high on Friday, led by health care stocks, after Wall Street climbed on strong earnings and a drop in U.S. Treasury yields.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 per cent or 42.8 points to 5,953.6 to end at its highest since March 19, racking up a weekly gain of around 1.4 per cent - its biggest since February. The benchmark declined 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

US equities rallied the day before boosted by strong quarterly earnings and after the yield on US 10-year Treasuries closed below 3 per cent.

In Australia, healthcare stocks accounted for most of the gains and rose to a record as positive sentiment emanating from a takeover bid for Healthscope continued to spill over to the broader sector.

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Biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd rose 2.9 per cent to its highest ever, lifting the benchmark, while medical device company Cochlear Ltd jumped 2.8 per cent to a record high.

Materials also gained, with gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd rising about 3.1 per cent to a near two-month high.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 1.1 per cent or 88.32 points to finish the session at 8,370.37, and gained 0.6 per cent for the week.

Health care stocks led gains in New Zealand as well, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd surging 3.5 per cent, while Ryman Healthcare Ltd ticked up 0.9 per cent.

Industrials underpinned the bullish trend, with Auckland International Airport Ltd adding 2.1 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage rise in about 10 weeks.

The airport operator said earlier that its total passenger numbers rose an annual 8.5 per cent in March.

REUTERS