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Australasia, News

Australia shares close at highest in over a year, extend gains for 4th session

* Tech stocks up for 4th session

* Travel stocks extend gains after “travel bubble” announcement

* Gold, energy sectors lift benchmark (Updates to close)

By Arundhati Dutta

April 7 (Reuters) – Australian shares on Wednesday closed at their highest in over a year, extending gains for the fourth straight session, helped by the country’s energy and gold sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.61% to 6,928.0 at the close of trade, its highest close since Feb. 24 last year.

“What’s really at play right now is to get a handle on which direction we’re going with rates and expectations for inflation,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

On Tuesday, the country’s central bank left lending rates unchanged at an all time-low, and promised to remain accommodative for as long as it took to push inflation within its 2% to 3% target range.

“The Australian exchange is really sort of spinning its wheels, there’s no direction to take a lead from at this stage,” Smoling said.

Gold stocks extended gains for a third session and closed up 2.3%, as bullion prices rose overnight, though prices dipped on Wednesday as strong U.S. data sparked economic recovery hopes.

Index heavyweight Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 1.1% and ended higher for a third session.

Energy stocks closed up 1.4%, tracking an uptick in oil prices on the prospects of stronger global economic growth amid increased COVID-19 vaccinations.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd rose 1.2% and 1.9%, respectively.

Tech stocks continued their winning streak for a fourth session, with Afterpay Ltd adding 1.9%.

Travel stocks extended gains following the announcement of quaratine-free “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday. Qantas Airways Ltd climbed 2.6%, while Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd added 1.2%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7% to finish the session at 12,487.59. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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