* NZ benchmark hits record close
* Australia hits highest close since late-Feb
* "Big Four" banks rise between 0.7% and 3%
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
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
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