* Healthcare stocks mark four-day win streak
* Afterpay closes at over two week low, down 1.9%
* Cboe Global Markets to acquire ASX competitor Chi-X Australia (Updates to close)
March 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher after a choppy session on Thursday, led by gains in export-reliant healthcare stocks due to a dip in the Australian dollar.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 0.2% at 6,790.6, after slipping as much as 0.1% earlier in the session. The benchmark was up 0.5% on Wednesday.
Export-reliant healthcare stocks saw their fourth consecutive session of gains and hit an over one-month high as a weaker domestic currency continued to benefit companies that earn in U.S dollars.
The Aussie was holding on at $0.7594 and only a whisker away from the February trough of $0.7564, while the U.S. dollar hit a fresh four-month high against the euro on Thursday.
“Healthcare has always been a bellwether and they are telling us right now that there is support for defensive positions,” said Brad Smoling, Managing Director of Smoling Stockbroking.
Sector heavyweight CSL gained 1.4%, while medical diagnostic services provider Sonic Healthcare rose 1.6%.
Utility stocks also rose, with power producer AGL Energy rising 0.3%.
Australia’s technology stocks, however, limited gains and fell 1.1%, tracking an overnight tumble among their U.S. peers.
“Concern right now is that since we are seeing the NASDAQ in correction, it is very hard to foresee that this is not going to affect the rest of the market. Naturally, the Australian market is correlating to the selloff,” Smoling added.
Buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay dropped 1.9% to close at a two week low, while machine learning and AI company Appen Ltd sank 3.5%.
Meanwhile, exchange operator Cboe Global Markets Inc said that it would acquire Chi-X Australia, the country’s second largest securities exchange behind ASX
Shares of ASX dropped 1% at close of trade.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.2% higher at 12,388.06 points. Building materials manufacturer Fletcher Building Ltd was the top gainer on the bourse. (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)