* Benchmark index closes higher after two sessions of falls
* Healthcare stocks rise 1.1%, A$ hits Nov lows overnight
* Tech stocks fall, Altium leads decline with 5.2% drop (Updates to close)
July 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Wednesday, with healthcare and financial stocks leading the gains after a two-day decline, while a rebound in U.S. stocks over renewed economic optimism also lent support.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8% to 7,308.7, after closing 0.5% lower in the previous session.
“The Aussie market is following the direction of U.S. market more than anything. Even though the performance has been good, markets are just recouping the losses made in the prior two days,” said Steven Daghlian, a market analyst with CommSec.
“The uncertainty around COVID-19 lockdowns in the country might push companies coming out with results in August to take a cautious stance on their outlook.”
Australia’s two largest states reported sharp increases in new COVID-19 cases, a blow to hopes that lockdown restrictions would be lifted.
Shares of U.S.-exposed healthcare companies were the biggest gainers on the Australian bourse with a jump of 1.1%. Heavyweights Cochlear and CSL Ltd both gained more than 1%.
Overnight, the Australian dollar dived to its lowest since November last year, while the greenback strengthened.
Financials climbed about 1%, with the big four banks gaining between 0.8% and 1.2%.
Miners rallied nearly 1% with BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue climbing between 0.5% and 1.3%.
Tech stocks, however, ended 0.6% lower. The fall was led by software maker Altium Ltd with a 5.2% drop as Autodesk officially terminated discussions to acquire the company.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to 12,709.1. (Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)