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Australasia, News

Australia shares track U.S. peers higher; Fed in focus

* BNPL stocks lead tech sector higher

* Seek gains most in more than five months

* NZ economy seen doing better in near term (Updates to close)

By Deepali Saxena

Sept 16 (Reuters) – Australian shares followed their U.S. peers higher on Wednesday, led by tech stocks, as investors awaited the Federal Reserve’s policy statement due later in the day for its view on the U.S. economy.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1% to a one-week closing high, with Seek Ltd soaring 13% at one point after a report indicated that Alibaba was eyeing an investment in its Chinese unit.

The online jobs portal later said it was in talks with a number of parties on whether to bring new investors into the unit. The company did not name the parties it was talking to.

Later in the day, the Fed will conclude its two-day meeting, its first since adopting a more accommodative approach to inflation and pledging to keep interest rates low for longer.

Wall Street rose overnight on hopes for an ultra-accommodative policy stance, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq climbing the most.

James Tao, a market analyst at CommSec, said investors were waiting for the Fed chairman’s commentary given expectations that the central bank will keep interest rates on hold.

Australia’s tech stocks climbed 2.4%, with buy-now-pay-later firms bouncing. Bellwether Afterpay hit a near two-week high and closed 4% higher.

Among the ‘big four’ banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1%, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 0.3%.

CSL, the country’s biggest biotech firm, added nearly 1.4%, while mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP rose more than 2% each.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4% higher at 11,814.71.

Kathmandu Holdings and Arvida Group were the top gainers on the benchmark, rising nearly 2.5% each.

Forecasts released by the treasury department showed the economy bounced back faster from a lockdown put in place to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island nation will report its second-quarter GDP numbers on Thursday. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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