Australia, NZ shares end higher as vaccine euphoria fuels recovery hopes

* Gold stocks hit their lowest in more than six months

* Energy stocks at over 5-month high as oil prices rise

* Air New Zealand gains for a 4th straight session (Updates to close)

Nov 24(Reuters) - Australia shares closed more than 1% higher on Tuesday, as news of a third promising vaccine candidate underpinned the risk-on mood and lifted sectors such as energy, financials and industrials.

Cyclicals led the gains, with energy stocks advancing as much as 3.6% to their highest in more than five months.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine could be up to 90% effective, and cheaper and easier to distribute than rivals, giving the world’s fight against the pandemic a third new weapon after Pfizer and Moderna announced promising trial results earlier this month.

The S&P/ASX 200 benchmark index closed 1.3% higher at 6644.1 points.

“The more of the pharmaceutical companies that come out and announce they’ve got a successful viral treatment, it inspires the market to maintain these very lofty levels,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

“It’s going to take a very long time to implement them, to get them through different parts of the world, so the market is trying to get inspiration out of every announcement of a vaccine, but it’s going to be short-lived,” Smoling said.

Heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Santos climbed more than 2.5% each, while Beach Energy added nearly 8%.

Financials hit their highest in more than eight months, with the so-called “Big Four” banks climbing between 3.1% and 2%.

The gold index was an outlier as vaccine optimism dented bullion’s safe-haven appeal.

The aviation sector got an extra boost on reports that Australia will lift more internal border restrictions as new coronavirus infections slow to a trickle.

Australia and New Zealand flag carriers Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand climbed more than 4%.

The New Zealand benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4% higher. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)