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CSL, Cochlear help Australian shares snap 2 sessions of losses

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Australian shares closed higher on Wednesday as CSL and Cochlear hit record highs and worries about the coronavirus epidemic waned as the number of new cases fell.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Wednesday as CSL and Cochlear hit record highs and worries about the coronavirus epidemic waned as the number of new cases fell.

The two stocks helped lift the S&P/ASX 200 index up 0.4 per cent to 7,144.6 and ended two straight sessions of losses.

Hearing implant maker Cochlear jumped 11 per cent as its rival Sonova recalled some of its devices. Cochlear had fallen more than 7 per cent since lowered its profit forecast last week.

Biotech firm CSL ended the session up 3 per cent. Both companies tend also tend to benefit from a weaker Australian dollar, which has been declining on fears about the hit to global growth from the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, expectations of an interest rate cut by the country's central bank gained ground after data showed wages in the last quarter of 2019 grew at a tepid pace.

Capital Economics expects wage growth to weaken further in the coming quarters, while Citigroup said that a worsening in the unemployment rate could see a more dovish central bank.

In company news, retail-to-chemicals conglomerate Wesfarmers posted a jump in first-half profit, lifting shares up nearly 3 per cent.

Fortescue Metals Group reported a near four-fold jump in half-year profit as it cashed in on higher iron ore prices like its peers. Shares were up 0.7 per cent as the miner offered shareholders a lower-than-expected dividend.

Faced with dwindling Chinese travellers, casino operator Crown Resorts dipped 0.3 per cent as its half-yearly profit fell on weak gambling turnover.

The race for Caltex Australia officially turned into a two-horse race on Wednesday when the convenience store, petrol station and refinery firm said EG Group made a rival offer.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent to 11,981.

The rise was supported by a more than 4 per cent bump by Fletcher Building. The builder posted a drop in half-year profit, in line with the company's expectations, and said it would sell its Australian concrete supply business. 

REUTERS