November 19, 2019 / 6:13 AM / 22 days ago

Australia shares end modestly higher on RBA's dovish tone; NZ up

* Gold stocks help mining sub-index

* Software giant WiseTech caps benchmark gains

* Sonic Healthcare climbs on strong FY guidance (Updates throughout with closing prices)

By Nikhil Subba

Nov 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed modestly higher on Tuesday, after minutes from the country’s central bank meeting this month revealed a clear dovish bias, but gains on the benchmark were capped by a decline in technology stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index advanced 0.7% to 6,814.20 at the close of trade. The main index closed 0.4% lower on Monday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia kept rates steady at its monetary policy meeting on Nov. 5, but the minutes released on Tuesday showed it came nearer to a cut than first thought. The bank left the door wide open to a further move if needed.

That was a surprise to many in the markets, which had priced in only a minor chance of a November easing. Analysts said the minutes suggested a further rate cut, likely in February but potentially as early as December.

The RBA has cut rates three times this year, to a record low of 0.75% in a bid to revive employment growth, consumer spending and inflation.

Mining stocks were best performers on Tuesday, ending the session 0.7% higher at a near two-week high. The sub-index was helped by Rio Tinto which advanced almost 1%, and Fortescue Metals Group which climbed 2.7%.

The broader mining index was also boosted by gold-related stocks, with gold explorer Regis Resources closing 3.8% higher and peer Northern Star Resources finishing 3.2% up. Bullion prices inched up to a more than 1-1/2 week high as as fresh doubts about a trade deal between the United States and China resurfaced.

Healthcare stocks firmed nearly 1% at close, with heavyweight drugmaker CSL Ltd rising 0.8%, after falling in the previous session.

Pathology and radiology service provider Sonic Healthcare Ltd ended the session 2% higher at a near three-month peak, after the Sydney-based co said it expects a FY20 EBITDA growth of 6%-8% from A$1,052 mln ($713.99 mln) in FY19 EBITDA.

Financial stocks ended trade marginally higher, with three of the “big four” banks in positive territory.

Bucking the trend, tech stocks fell 1.2%, dragged lower by heavyweight WiseTech Global, whose shares tumbled about 8% after short seller J Capital issued a critical report to coincide with the company’s annual general meeting. Wisetech finished as the top loser on the Australian benchmark despite reaffirming its outlook at that meeting.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 0.2% or 10.08 points to finish the session at 10,892.24.

Dairy company A2 Milk ended 10.3% higher at a near two-month high, while communications infrastructure services provider Chorus Lts firmed about 7% to close at a near three-month peak. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; editing by Jane Wardell)

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