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Australia shares rise on U.S. stimulus cheer; NZ ends at record high

* Tech stocks lead gains, close nearly 2% higher

* “Big four” banks rise between 0.4% and 0.9%.

* Gold stocks sole major sector in the red (Updates to close)

Dec 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, driven by financial and technology stocks, as market participants cheered the signing of a long-awaited COVID-19 pandemic aid bill in the United States and a landmark Brexit deal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.53% at 6,700.3, just 16.2 points higher than where it started at the beginning of the year.

U.S. stock indexes notched record closing highs on Monday, after President Donald Trump walked back on his threat to block a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid bill, and signed it into law on Sunday.

Adding to cheer, Britain clinched a narrow Brexit trade deal with the European Union on Thursday, limiting the scale of disruption from the divorce.

With just two trading days left for 2020, Australia’s benchmark looks to end a year of record highs and historic lows nearly unchanged from where it began.

Tech stocks are set to emerge as the winners of 2020 as consumers stuck at home due to coronavirus-induced curbs moved online, while energy stocks are set to end nearly 30% lower after lockdowns around the world battered fuel demand.

Miners are also on an upward trajectory with a near 18% year-to-date rise, with their bull run projected to continue into 2021 helped by rising iron ore prices.

Tech stocks were the top gainers for the day, closing 1.9% higher, while Afterpay, rising 4.3%, was the top boost.

Financials climbed 0.6%, with the “Big Four” banks gaining between 0.4% and 0.9%.

Energy stocks rose 0.4%, tracking an uptick in oil prices on expectations of rising fuel demand. Sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum added almost 1%.

Gold was the sole major sub-index in the red, despite a slight rise in gold prices.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.6% and notched a record closing high of 13,246.77. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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