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Australia shares close at record high as RBA signals continued dovish policy

(Updates to close)

June 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at a record high on Tuesday, helped by gains among banking and healthcare stocks, and after minutes from the domestic central bank’s June meeting signalled a continuation of its accommodative stance.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.9% at 7,379.5 at the close of trade, its highest close ever, having hit a record high of 7,398.6 earlier in the session.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is ready to extend its bond purchase programme beyond September, minutes from its June policy meeting showed, with members calling the programme “one of the factors underpinning the accommodative conditions necessary for the economic recovery”.

Investors are now looking to a two-day U.S. Federal Reserve meeting that starts later in the day for further cues on the top economy’s monetary policy.

“We’re seeing a relief rally today as the RBA’s stance had no surprises... the market will likely be in a holding pattern now till the results of the Fed meeting comes out,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Healthcare stocks jumped 1.9% to rise for the third consecutive session, with medical devices maker Resmed Inc gaining 6.8%.

Financials advanced over 1%, with the so-called “big four” banks gaining between 0.8% and 2.1%.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto rose 0.6% and 1.3%, respectively, though the broader mining index was dragged lower by losses among gold stocks, which fell over 2%.

Top listed gold producer Newcrest Mining lost 1.9%, as bullion prices suffered against a stronger greenback.

Meanwhile, iron ore explorer Fortescue Metals Group said on Tuesday it was in talks with the Democratic Republic of Congo to develop the largest hydroelectric power project in the world.

Stocks of Fortescue rose as much as 2.8% during the session.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 1.1% higher at 12,696.3, helped by gains among financial and healthcare stocks. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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