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Australian shares end higher on hopes of easing in virus curbs

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By Arpit Nayak

Australian shares closed higher on Thursday as a decline in daily cases in Covid-19 hot spot Victoria boosted hopes of an easing in restrictions, with investors awaiting a European Central Bank policy decision later in the day.

A dip in daily infections in Victoria to double-digits in the recent days and the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s urge to lift the state’s night curfew, if not imposed on medical grounds, stirred hopes of a relaxation in curbs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5 per cent higher at 5,908.5, retreating from an intraday high of 1.3 per cent during the session.

Investors also adopted a wait-and-see approach ahead of a European Central Bank policy decision, said IC Markets General Manager Nick Twidale. The decision is due at 1145 GMT and the central bank is expected to keep policy unchanged.

“There’s probably not a commitment to carry on driving the market higher until we get a bit more clarity.”

Recent escalations in diplomatic tensions with China could also impact the broader economy and put doubt in people’s mind as to what was likely to happen, said Doug Symes, client advisor at Novus Capital.

Beijing accused Australia of harassing Chinese journalists by searching and seizing items from their homes on Wednesday.

Among individual shares and sectors, the gold index finished 2.4 per cent higher as the bullion hit a near one-week high, with ASX-listed shares of AngloGold Ashanti and Newcrest Mining gaining 2.3 per cent and 1.8 per cent, each.

Local tech stocks tracked U.S. peers to finish 1.4 per cent higher, with Afterpay climbing 2.1 per cent to lead gains.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent to finish the session at 11,811.78.

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