Australia, NZ shares gain as Biden transition, vaccine cheer lift risk assets

* Australia financials record highest level since March 5

* Australian energy stocks gain for third session

* NZ’s Fletcher Building records highest level in over 2 years (Updates to close)

Nov 25(Reuters) - Australia shares finished higher on Wednesday, lifted by the formal start of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House and as investors also expect a swift economic revival on coronavirus vaccine progress.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished 0.6% higher at 6,683.300 points.

“Thanks to the multiple vaccines in the pipeline, “Joy to the World” is ringing in earlier than expected”, Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi wrote in a note.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average breached the 30,000 level overnight for the first time on optimism surrounding vaccine progress and Biden’s transition.

“A quick look around the markets today and there isn’t really much to speak of that concerns. It’s like a risk-positive nirvana has descended over the capital markets and traders have very little to trouble themselves with other than going with the flow”, said Pepperstone’s Chris Weston.

Meanwhile, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales is set to ease social distancing restrictions and allow restaurants and pubs to increase capacity from December, after recording nearly three weeks without any local COVID-19 transmission.

Advancing as much as 4%, energy firms were the biggest percentage gainers on the benchmark as crude prices rose for a fourth straight session.

Financials added more than 2% with the “Big Four” banks ending in the black. Analysts at UBS expect banks to increase payout ratios and potentially return excess capital from fiscal 2021.

Miners also advanced as benchmark iron ore futures snapped a two-session losing streak with Lynas Corp and BHP Group topping the sub-index with more than a 3% gain each.

In New Zealand, benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained for a third straight session to finish 0.9% higher.

The central bank said on Wednesday it would re-impose mortgage curbs next year amid rising fears of a housing bubble.

The country’s largest construction firm jumped to its highest since November 2018 on upbeat profit outlook and dividend resumption plans. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)