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Australian shares scale record high on financials boost

* Energy stocks rise 3%, top gainers on benchmark

* Miners advance for sixth straight session

* Tech stocks mark best session in a week (Updates to close)

June 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares hit a record high on Thursday, as financials extended gains fuelled by better-than-expected first-quarter economic growth and elevated oil prices boosted energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 climbed 0.6% to 7,260.1, marking its second straight session of gains, as the state of Victoria reported its lowest rise in new COVID-19 cases in more than a week.

Financials rose 1% to close at their highest since early 2018, a day after data showed the economy had returned to pre-pandemic levels last quarter as consumers and businesses spent with abandon.

The so-called “Big Four” banks settled in positive territory, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp finishing 1.5% higher in its best session in two weeks.

“The economy is doing well and what the banks don’t need is an economy faltering and bad debts coming through,” said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

“Housing is going ‘gangbusters’ and demand for banking products, mortgages is very high.”

Energy stocks, which have added 7.2% so far this week, were the top gainers on the benchmark index, adding 3.3% as oil prices rose for a third straight session.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd jumped 3.1%, while Santos Ltd gained 3.8% to close at its highest level in nearly four weeks.

Miners advanced for a sixth straight session as iron ore prices rose further on expectations of tight supplies and resilient demand from steel mills.

Technology stocks marked their best session in a week, with buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay rising 3.3%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 ended 0.1% lower at 12,429.98, with Restaurant Brands New Zealand and NZX Ltd being the top losers on the bourse. (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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