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Australian shares close higher on phased economic reopening plan

* Energy stocks lead gains on ASX

* IDP Education surges over 20%

* NZX 50 ends 0.2% higher (Updates to close)

July 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Friday, boosted by the country’s four-phase plan to reopen the economy from virus-led lockdowns, though they ended the turbulent week flat.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.59% at 7,308.6 points.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the reopening plan, saying that each phase will require a new vaccine milestone to be hit, with a focus on suppressing COVID-19 to a stage where it would be managed like other infectious diseases like the flu.

“The market is hopeful today (Friday) as numbers in New South Wales seem to be under control and the government plan for a phased opening of the economy to the outside world is a positive, even if it is going to take forever” Henry Jennings, a senior analyst for Marcus Today said.

“Lesser cases from New South Wales and maybe we can get out of lockdowns next week as anticipated.”

Energy stocks were the top percentage gainers as oil prices rose overnight on signs that Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC+) producers could increase output more slowly than expected in coming months.

Sector heavyweights, Woodside Petroleum and Santos surged more than 2.5%.

The heavyweight financial index closed 0.8% higher, with Australia’s biggest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank advancing up to 0.8%.

English language testing firm IDP Education surged 20.3% to be the top performing stock on the index, after it announced it would become the sole distributor of IELTS English language tests in a booming Indian market.

Gambling services provider BlueBet Holdings climbed as much as 84.2% on its market debut on ASX at A$2.0, a 75% jump from its initial public offering price of A$1.14.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 12,711.8 points. (Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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