February 11, 2020 / 6:55 AM / 15 days ago

Australia shares end higher on broad-based gains, NZ up over 1%

(Updates to close)

By Soumyajit Saha

Feb 11 (Reuters) - Broad-based gains pushed Australian shares higher on Tuesday, with tech stocks leading the pack, although worries persisted as factories in China struggled to reopen amid the rapidly-spreading coronavirus.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.6% higher at 7,055.3.

Overnight, U.S. stocks closed higher, boosted by tech giants such as Amazon.com and Microsoft Corp. Their Australian peers tracked these gains, with Xero Ltd and WiseTech Global Ltd rising 1.4% and 3% each.

"With the strong lead from Wall Street, markets globally are tracking higher despite the fact that coronavirus is still a concern in the background," Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec said.

"But by no means are we shooting the lights out just yet."

The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in mainland China soared past 1,000 on Tuesday, while the prolonged disruption to factories and businesses played havoc with the world's second-largest economy.

The financial subindex added to the benchmark's gains, with the "Big Four" banks rising between 0.7% and 0.9%.

Healthcare stocks advanced, with heavyweight CSL Ltd and Ramsay Health Care Ltd ending 0.6% and 1.1% higher.

Elsewhere, investment management firm Challenger Ltd was the top gainer on the benchmark after forecasting FY20 net profit to be around the top end of its outlook range.

Gold stocks snapped two straight sessions of gains to end slightly lower as the spotlight returned to riskier assets.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed more than 1% higher, helped by financial and utility stocks.

New Zealand listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp advanced 1.5%, while Meridian Energy gained 2.8%. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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