Australia shares climb on improving U.S. stimulus hopes, no new local virus cases

Australia shares climb on improving U.S. stimulus hopes, no new local virus cases

* Vocus surges on buyout offer

* Miners lifted by higher iron ore prices

* NZ closed for Waitangi Day

Feb 8 (Reuters) – Australian shares rose on Monday, with strengthening global risk sentiment as U.S. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 package looked more certain of being pushed through, while investors also cheered an improving local coronavirus situation.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.6% to 6,882.30 by 0111 GMT, with gains across the board. The benchmark closed 1.1% higher on Friday.

U.S. lawmakers on Friday approved a budget outline that will allow them to muscle Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package through in the coming weeks without Republican support.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted the final COVID-19 relief legislation could pass Congress before March 15, when special unemployment benefits that were added during the pandemic expire.

Australia logging zero new coronavirus cases for three consecutive days over the weekend also lifted sentiment, with no cases being reported in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

The Australian mining index was the best performer, gaining as much as 1.8%, boosted by higher iron ore prices.

BHP Group rose nearly 2%, while Rio Tinto advanced 2.3% to mark its best day since Jan. 27.

Tech stocks strengthened 1.8% to hit a record high, helped by Afterpay’s over 3% gain and Xero’s 2.7% rise.

The communication service sub-index gained as much as 1.6% to mark its highest level in almost a year, buoyed by sharp gains in fibre network owner Vocus Group.

Sydney-based Vocus surged as much as 19.2% to its highest since November 2016, after getting an indicative proposal from Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Holdings to acquire the firm for A$3.42 billion. ($2.62 billion)

Despite a rise in oil prices, energy stocks gained marginally.

Woodside Petroleum gained as much as 0.8%, while Santos advanced 1.9%.

New Zealand stock market was closed on Monday for a public holiday.

$1 = 1.3040 Australian dollars Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich


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