Australia shares rise as vaccine hopes lift energy, travel stocks

By Deepali Saxena



graphical user interface: FILE PHOTO: A board displaying stock prices is seen at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney


© Reuters/DAVID GRAY
FILE PHOTO: A board displaying stock prices is seen at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney

(Reuters) – Australian shares closed higher for a fourth straight session on Tuesday as progress in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine raised hopes of a swifter recovery in the global economy and bolstered hard-hit travel, tourism and energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index <.axjo>, however, ended 0.7% higher after jumping 2.2% to a more than eight-month high in early session as a slump in overnight bullion prices weighed on gold stocks <.axgd>.

Risk appetite got a boost globally after U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said a large-scale trial of their vaccine showed it was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.

“Investors appeared to have switched out from big tech into the long-underperformed traditional industries last night, kicking off a new chapter of sectoral rotation,” Margaret Yang, a strategist with news and research website DailyFX, wrote in a note.

“How to strike a balance between an escalating pandemic wave against vaccine hopes will likely be a main theme for trading till year end.”

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Tourism and travel-related stocks such as Flight Centre Travel Group , Sydney Airport Holdings and Qantas Airways rose more than 8% each on the news.

Energy stocks <.axej>, which have been among the worst hit by the pandemic due to a plunge in fuel demand, surged as much as 8.9% to record their best session since early April.

Nearly all stocks on the sub-index were higher, with Oil Search and Beach Energy climbing more than 14% each.

Heavyweight financial stocks <.axfj> rose to their highest levels since June 10, with the “Big Four” banks adding between 3% and 7.6%.

National Australia Bank ended 7.6% higher, overtaking Sydney-based rival Westpac Banking Corp as the country’s second-largest lender based on market value.

However, tech <.axij> and consumer <.axsj> stocks, which have so far benefited from an online shopping boom and panic buying triggered by the pandemic, dropped more than 3%.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index <.nz50> hit a record high before closing marginally higher at 12,612.39.

Investor attention will turn to country’s central bank meeting on Wednesday, where it is expected to unveil a new monetary policy tool to drive borrowing costs for lenders lower and maintain the official rate at 0.25%.

(Reporting by Deepali Saxena; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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