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Australian shares jump most in over two weeks on U.S. stimulus hopes

* Tech stocks end at record high

* Afterpay hits all-time closing peak for third straight day

* NZ Sept. qtr GDP expected to grow 10.5% (Updates to close)

Dec 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose the most in more than two weeks on Wednesday, tracking overnight Wall Street gains buoyed by a potential U.S. coronavirus stimulus package.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7% to end at 6,679.2, posting its biggest intraday jump since Dec. 1.

All three major U.S. indexes gained overnight, with Nasdaq closing at a record level, on hopes of the U.S. lawmakers reaching a quick relief deal to soften the pandemic’s economic blow.

Investors will also be eyeing the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting outcome later on Wednesday, where it is likely to keep its key overnight interest rate at near zero for the foreseeable future.

“Market in general is buoyant, taking direction from the U.S. on hopes for a good commentary from the FOMC meeting and a stimulus from the U.S. lawmakers,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

In Australia, miners and financials were the top boosts, advancing 1.9% and 0.7%, respectively.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 1%, after it announced a merger of its domestic home loans business with online loan platform Lendi.

Escalating trade tensions with China, however, continued to weigh on sentiment, with Australia planning to appeal to the World Trade Organization over Beijing’s decision to impose hefty tariffs on Canberra’s barley imports.

“If the coal issue with China is resolved early in the new year, it would relax the market in relation to other commodities that are exported to China,” Smoling added.

Tech stocks ended at a record high, with buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay extending gains into the fourth straight day and hitting a third straight closing peak.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to end at 12,828.99.

The country’s September quarter GDP is expected to bounce to a 10.5% growth from its sharpest contraction on record in the second quarter.

Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich

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