Australia shares hit 14-month closing high on mining, healthcare boost

Australian shares finished at their highest level in more than 14 months on Wednesday, buoyed by commodity and healthcare-related stocks, although tech stocks tracked their U.S. peers lower to curb further gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4% to 7,095.80, its highest close since Feb. 21, 2020, and marking its third consecutive session of gains.

Investors shrugged off a weak overnight session on Wall Street, when mega-cap growth stocks were sold off after comments by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the potential need for interest rate hikes, which she later downplayed.

The Australian metals and mining sub-index rose 0.5%, hitting its highest level since May 29, 2008. Mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto gained 1.1% and 1.2%, respectively.

The miners benefited as copper prices rose past a key psychological level of $10,000 a tonne, buoyed by optimism about global economic recovery.

Financials added 0.6%, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia adding 2.5%, while insurer QBE Insurance Group rose 4.1%.

Fourth-largest lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said it would consider returning capital to shareholders as its first-half profit more than doubled, but its shares still ended 3.2% lower.

Shares of Westpac Banking Corp closed marginally lower after the Australian securities regulator accused the lender of insider trading while financing a A$16 billion ($12 billion) Ausgrid privatisation in 2016.

Shares of export-focused healthcare companies climbed nearly 1%, tracking the U.S. dollar rally. Index heavyweight CSL Ltd gained the most on the sub-index, up 2.4%.

Technology stocks declined 1.1%, tracking the Nasdaq’s tumble overnight, with buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay Ltd losing 3.5%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index declined 0.5% to 12,848.31, snapping a five-day gaining streak to post its biggest drop since April 21.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand said the country has come through the COVID-19 pandemic better than initially feared, but warned that financial vulnerabilities remain.

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