* Silver, gold stocks lead gains
* Silver prices could be over 100 dollars by mid-year - analyst
* Miners snap three-day losing streak (Updates to close)
Feb 1 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Monday, helped by gains in precious metal stocks, with silver prices at a near six-month high as retail investors piled into the commodity in what appeared to be social media-hyped buying.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.8% higher to 6,663 at market close, reversing a 1.4% fall earlier in the session and snapping a three-day losing streak.
Silver, traditionally considered a safe-haven asset, rose 7% after social media-driven investors flooded into the market to recreate the frenzy that led to a meteoric rise in GameStop shares last week.
“Silver is a very heavily shorted commodity. So, if the Reddit crowd does focus their attention on that, you are going to find silver miners continue to rally very high, and that will lift other commodities and metals with it,” said Brad Smoling, Managing Director at Smoling Stockbroking.
“I would not be surprised to see silver well over 100 dollars by mid-year,” he added.
Shares of silver miners like Argent Minerals and Boab Metals soared.
Gold stocks also jumped, with Alkane Resources and West African Resources rising 3.8% and 5.5%, respectively.
Miners rose 1.5% after three consecutive sessions of losses.
Domestically, Australian job advertisements rose to their highest since April 2019, indicating solid employment gains will continue this year, bolstering positive sentiment.
Financials gained 0.9%, with all of the so-called “Big Four” banks rising.
Healthcare stocks also saw significant gains, closing 1.7% higher, with sector heavyweight CSL gaining 2.3%.
ASX-listed canabbis stocks like Creso Pharm and Althea Group jumped on Therapeutic Goods Association’s approval for over-the-counter sale of cannabidiol products in Australian pharmacies from February 1.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 fell 0.2% to 13,097.25 points.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation was the top loser on the benchmark and closed 3.3% lower. (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)