* NZ benchmark hits record close
* Australia hits highest close since late-Feb
* “Big Four” banks rise between 0.7% and 3% (Updates to close)
Nov 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed on Tuesday at their highest in nearly nine months, pushed up by financial and energy stocks after Wall Street surged overnight on news of the promising results of a second coronavirus vaccine candidate.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.2% higher at 6,498.2 points, the highest since Feb. 27. The index had risen 1.2% on Monday, before a software glitch forced trading on the Australian Securities Exchange to halt 20 minutes from open.
Major U.S. indexes notched record closing highs on Monday, as Moderna said its experimental coronavirus vaccine was 94.5% effective, days after positive test results from Pfizer’s vaccine candidate.
“Lot of stocks that have been out of favour are rising on hopes that this virus downturn will be behind us in the days ahead, ” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.
Travel stocks, which have been among the biggest casualties of the pandemic, logged significant gains.
A jump in oil prices pushed energy stocks to their highest in five months, with heavyweights Woodside Petroleum , up 3.2%, and Santos, gaining 3.5%, among the biggest boosts to the sub index.
Financials hit their highest since early March, with the “Big Four” banks adding between 0.7% and 3%.
Smoling said there was hope that the virus announcements would restore normalcy to embattled businesses, so people were picking up bank stocks on expectations that bankruptcies and defaults would lessen.
On the downside, tech stocks dropped 2.8%, while gold stocks tumbled 4.1%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark extended its winning streak to an eleventh session, rising 0.2% to a record close of 12,765.03 points.
Local shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group were the top percentage gainers, rising 2.8% and 3.1%, respectively. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)
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