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Financials lift Australian shares on hopes of vaccine-led recovery

Stock Markets Dec 14, 2020 16:54
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* Financials rise most in nearly 2 weeks

* Tech firms jump most since Aug. 25

* Afterpay closes at record level on ASX 20 inclusion (Updates to close)

By Sameer Manekar

Dec 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares ticked higher on Monday, with banks leading the gains on hopes of a vaccine-fuelled economic recovery as shipments of COVID-19 shot began in the United States.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO rose 0.3% to end the session at 6,660.20. However, it pared early gains of up to 0.8% as miners and healthcare firms weighed on the index.

Providing a positive lead for domestic equities, U.S. stock futures ESc1 gained 0.5% in Asian trade as the delivery of shipments of Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) PFE.N and its German partner BioNTech's BNTX.O COVID-19 vaccine started in the United States. MKTS/GLOB

"The index is following U.S. futures higher with banks standing out as economy improves and life returns to normal," said Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

The financials sector .AXFJ was the biggest boost to the benchmark, adding 1% in its best session since Dec. 1.

The "Big Four" banks gained between 0.4% and 1.9%.

Tech stocks .AXIJ posted their biggest intraday gain session since Aug. 25, led by Afterpay APT.AX which jumped 8.8% to close at an all-time high.

The increased buying interest in the buy-now-pay-later bellwether came after news that it was included in the ASX 20 .ATLI and ASX 50 indexes .AFLI . gains were, however, limited by losses in miners .AXMM , energy stocks .AXEJ , and healthcare firms .AXHJ .

The healthcare sector has been under pressure after Australia halted its COVID-19 vaccine programme last week. firm CSL Ltd CSL.AX , which was developing a vaccine with the University of Queensland, fell 1.7% to its lowest level since Nov. 2, marking its third session of losses.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 declined 0.7% to finish the session at 12,835.12.

($1 = 1.3264 Australian dollars)

Financials lift Australian shares on hopes of vaccine-led recovery
 

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