May 8, 2020 / 1:34 AM / 23 days ago

Australia shares rise as virus restrictions set to ease; NZ also up

* All Australian sub-indexes up, gold index leads gains

* Australia to announce easing of coronavirus restrictions

* NZ up for fifth session

By Arundhati Dutta

May 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose over 1% on Friday as risk sentiment improved on the likely easing of some coronavirus restrictions that have taken a devastating toll on the economy.

Gains in Wall Street fuelled by a bout of upbeat corporate earnings led by Paypal also added to the cheer.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.1% or 58 points to 5,422.5 by 0111 GMT. ​The index looked set for a weekly gain of 3.2%, but is still down 19.75% this year.

Australia will ease social distancing restrictions in four-week increments, two sources told Reuters. The cabinet will meet on Friday to decide which curbs to remove first amid dwindling numbers of coronavirus cases.

All major indices on Wall Street rose on Thursday, with the Nasdaq erasing all losses accrued in 2020.

Online real estate classifieds portal REA Group Ltd ,added nearly 5% and was one of the top percentage gainers on the benchmark, after posting a jump in its quarterly earnings and announcing cost-cutting measures.

All major sub-indexes traded higher, with the gold index up 1.7%, the best performer after an overnight jump in bullion prices.

OceanaGold Corp led gains, up 5.7%, followed by Dacian Gold Ltd, gaining 5.3​%.

The mining sub-index jumped 1.3%, after commodity prices rose overnight. Index heavyweights BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals rose between 1.3% to 2.4%.

Technology stocks rose 1.3%, led by Appen Ltd , up 5.7%, followed by EML Payments Ltd, gaining 4.7%.

Improving sentiment also drove shares of investment bank Macquarie Group up 1%, despite halving its final dividend and reporting an 8% drop in annual profit.

Australia’s biggest wealth manager AMP Ltd scrapped plans to divest its New Zealand wealth management business, blaming the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. AMP shares rose nearly 5%.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 663 while 186 declined as a 3.6-to-1 ratio favoured advancers. There were 49 new highs and 40 new lows.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to 10,681.7, putting it on track for a fifth straight session of gains.

The top percentage gainers on the were Tourism Holdings Ltd, up 12.6%, followed by Vista Group International Ltd, gaining 6.6%. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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