April 29, 2020 / 1:06 AM / a month ago

Australia shares gain amid easing virus curbs; Crown Resorts jumps

* Dealers eye U.S. Fed statement

* Crown Resorts hits near 8-week high

By Shashwat Awasthi

April 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares advanced on Wednesday as risk sentiment improved on phased easing of coronavirus-driven lockdowns around the world, while Crown Resorts surged 12% after Blackstone bought a stake in the casino operator.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4% to 5,333.1 points by 0022 GMT.

All but two sub-sectors logged gains on the bourse, with heavyweight financial stocks adding 2.1% and an index of energy stocks rising 2.5%.

Shares of Crown Resorts topped gains on the benchmark as they rose to their highest since March 6 after the company said U.S. private equity firm Blackstone bought a 9.99% stake in the casino operator from Melco Resorts.

Investor confidence has been lifted in recent sessions as major countries and several U.S. states reopen for business and central banks seem poised to inject more stimulus to offset the economic hit from the pandemic.

After the Bank of Japan announced further measures this week, the U.S. Federal Reserve will issue a policy statement on Wednesday, while the European Central Bank meets Thursday.

Overnight, the U.S. Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.13%, the S&P 500 lost 0.52%, while Nasdaq lost 1.40%, after a mixed bag of corporate earnings.

The Aussie dollar was 0.28% weaker against the U.S. dollar to A$0.65 on Wednesday.

Brent crude futures rose 1.76% to $20.82 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 8.35% to $13.37 per barrel.

Gold fell 0.09% to $1,706.00.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 545 while 324 declined as a 1.7-to-1 ratio favoured advancers. There were 58 new highs and 54 new lows.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4% to 10,719.9 points. (Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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