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Australian shares mark best week in four on split U.S. Congress hopes

(Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Friday, clocking its best weekly gain in four, as investors rode on a global equities rally on hopes of a divided U.S. Congress and a reduced possibility of higher corporate taxes.

FILE PHOTO: A board displaying stock prices is seen at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) in Sydney, Australia, February 9, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO ended 0.8% higher at 6,190.20. For the week, it rose 4.4%, its best since Oct. 9.

Global equities have gained this week despite uncertainty around the U.S. presidential race, as investors hoped the two houses of the Congress would be divided in influence during a possible Joe Biden presidency, making it hard to enact radical Democratic policy changes.

“We’re relatively happy with a divided Congress. In that, it takes the politics out of it and we can just get back to corporate news, companies making money,” said Henry Jennings a senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday.

Meanwhile, Australia said it is closely monitoring trade flows to China amid “deeply troubling” reports from industry that Chinese buyers have been told not to purchase seven categories of Australian produce from Friday.

Shares of Treasury Wine Estate TWE.AX, whose biggest market is China, however, closed 10% higher.

“While the situation is political, there is no evidence of dumping in China of premium wines and Treasury may be in a better position than most if tariffs are targeted towards lower priced wines,” analysts at Citi said in a note.

The Australian gold index .AXGD gained 5.6%, with Alkane Resources ALK.AX rising 5% and Bellevue Gold BGL.AX adding about 10%.

Miners AXMM> rose 2.5% on stronger iron ore prices. BHP Group BHP.AX and Rio Tinto RIO.AX each gained over 1%.

The heavyweight financial index .AXFJ rose 0.7%, with the "Big Four" banks closing 0.2% to 1.4% higher.

Macquarie Group Ltd MQG.AX gained 2.3% after it posted a smaller-than-forecast half-yearly loss.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.7% to 12,337.02.

Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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