Australia shares end at 11-month high as country approves Pfizer vaccine

Australia shares end at 11-month high as country approves Pfizer vaccine

Australian shares closed higher on Monday after the country’s drug regulator approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use, while expectations of a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus plan to kick-start the U.S economy lifted broader sentiment.

Global equity markets have scaled record highs in recent days on bets Covid-19 vaccines will start to reduce the infection rates worldwide and on a stronger US economic recovery under President Joe Biden.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.4 per cent firmer at its highest since Feb. 25, 2020, after ending 0.3 per cent lower on Friday. Trading volumes remained at just little over half of the 30-day average.

The country’s medical regulator was one of the first in the world to complete a comprehensive approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters that vaccination of priority groups is expected to begin by February-end, at 80,000 doses per week.

“Volumes are low, and there isn’t a lot of activity simply because it’s Australia day on Tuesday,” said Brad Smoling, Managing Director of Smoling Stockbroking.

“The market is taking some relief due to the low number of coronavirus cases and the highly acclaimed Pfizer vaccine that will be rolled out in Australia,” he said.

Markets will be closed on Tuesday on account of Australia Day.

Miners rose nearly 1.1 per cent, and were the biggest boosts to the index with mining giant Rio Tinto gaining 2.1 per cent, while rival BHP rose nearly 0.89 per cent.

Technology stocks advanced 1.1 per cent, with buy-now-pay-later heavyweight Afterpay rising 1.4 per cent. Aerial imagery services provider Nearmap jumped 5.1 per cent and data services company Appen closed 2.8 per cent firmer.

Energy stocks were the biggest drags on the benchmark, down 1.2 per cent to their lowest in nearly two weeks, as prices inched lower on concerns of tepid demand following a rise in US crude inventories and fresh restrictions in China.

Woodside Petroleum and Santos both shed more than 1 per cent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 per cent to finish the session at 13,399.1 points.

Residential aged-care services provider Oceania Healthcare and business mail services provider Freightways were the top gainers in the benchmark.

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