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Australia shares rise as Wall Street hits record-high, local virus cases abate

* IT stocks set for best week since July 3

* Suncorp gains most in over two months

* NZ’s Skellerup Holdings hits record high

Aug 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained on Friday after Wall Street’s spectacular rise overnight sparked similar reaction domestically, while investors also cheered a dip in new coronavirus cases in the country’s second-most populous state.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.5% by 0033 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.8% in the previous session.

All the three major indices on Wall Street ended in the positive territory overnight with the tech-savvy Nasdaq finishing at a record high.

Technology stocks climbed about 1.3%, led by Megaport, up 5.06%, followed by Nearmap, gaining 4.1%.

Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay extended gains into the second session after it nearly doubled its annual core earnings forecast on Wednesday.

Further fuelling optimism, the second-most populous state of Victoria, which has become the country’s COVID-19 hot spot, reported its lowest daily rise in new cases in more than five weeks.

Financials rose 1.2% with the ‘big-four’ banks all trading in the green.

Leading the gains on the local benchmark, Suncorp soared over 7% after it reported a 421.7% increase in its annual profit.

The Energy bourse rose 0.82% led by Santos, up 2.33%, followed by Viva Energy Group, gaining 1.61%.

As of 0043 GMT, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rebounded 1.3%, wiping all the losses from the previous session after a senior official said, central bank is watching the country’s labour market “very closely” to decide if negative interest rates will be needed to further support the economy.

The index set for its best week since the week ended July 3.

The best performer on the benchmark index, polymer products manufacturer Skellerup Holdings jumped to an all-time high on strong annual results.

A2 Milk Co gained 3% after the dairy producer said it had offered to buy a 75.1% stake in Mataura Valley Milk. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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