* RBA's Philip Lowe says the country was in a recovery
* Financials hit their highest since March 9
* NZ reverses course to edge lower
Nov 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged higher on
Wednesday to hit their highest in nearly nine months after the
central bank governor said the country was "on the road back",
while gold stocks advanced as a resurgence in COVID-19 cases
globally lifted bullion prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5% to 6,532 points by
2353 GMT, hitting its highest level since Feb. 28.
Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe also said
that rising home prices in Australia are not a cause for concern
yet because demand is weaker due to slow population growth this
year and next.
"Whenever the RBA governor says something positive, that
will be taken onboard when it comes to investor decisions. That
lifts the sentiment particularly in banks, that's why we're
seeing a strong start from them today," James Tao, market
analyst at CommSec said.
Still, concerns about a resurgence in coronavirus infections
lingered as authorities conducted mass tests and about 4,000
people were confined to quarantine in an attempt to stifle a new
cluster of cases.
Analysts were, however, positive on the overall situation in
the country. Australia's three most populous states on Saturday
had recorded at least a week with no local transmissions of the
"The COVID-19 situation is still much more promising here in
Australia, despite the bit of cluster happening in Adelaide. The
two largest states are performing quite well," said Tao.
Financials hit their highest since March 9, with the
so-called "Big Four" banks trading in the black.
The gold sub-index, on the other hand, rose 1.1% as bullion
prices held in a narrow range on Tuesday.
United Malt Group was among the top percentage
gainers on the benchmark, climbing as much as 8% after the
maltser posted its annual results.
Bourse operator ASX Ltd hit its lowest since Nov.
4, after Morgan Stanley lowered price target and flagged rising
costs following a software glitch that led to halt of trading on
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed early
gains to trade 0.5% lower by 0056 GMT. The benchmark had posted
gains for the past 11 sessions.
(Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry