* Healthcare stocks set for fourth straight day of gains
* Afterpay top performer on the Australian benchmark index
March 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained on Friday as
hopes of a strong global economic recovery increased after U.S.
jobless claims fell and President Joe Biden signed into law a
$1.9 trillion stimulus package.
The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.6% to 6,752 by 2308
GMT and was set to post its second consecutive weekly gain.
Biden on Thursday signed into law one of the biggest relief
packages in U.S. history, aimed at spurring economic growth,
while data showed fewer than expected Americans filed new claims
for unemployment benefits last week.
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index and
the S&P 500 closed at all-time highs.
In Australia, technology stocks rose 1.5% as buy
now, pay later company Afterpay rose 3.1%, followed by
Appen, which gained 2.4%.
Mining stocks added 1.4%, with OZ Minerals
and Pilbara Minerals advancing 3.6% and 3.5%,
Financial stocks rose 0.5% led by Insurance
Australia Group Ltd and Australia and New Zealand
Banking Group Ltd, gaining 1.3% and 1%, respectively.
Southern Cross Media Group slipped almost 11% to a
near four-month low after broadcaster Nine Entertainment
said it will not extend its regional television
affiliation agreement with the company.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was
up 0.5% 12,327.4.
The country unveiled on Friday a NZ$31 billion ($22.41
billion) transport infrastructure package for its largest city,
Auckland, as it looks to address years of investment backlogs on
public transport and lower emissions.
($1 = 1.3833 New Zealand dollars)
(Reporting by Aditya Munjuluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)