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Australian shares hit 5-1/2-month high on coronavirus treatment bets

* Financials, technology stocks lead gains

* Ansell hits record high on robust profit, forecast

* NZ benchmark rises for a third straight session

Aug 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose for a second straight session on Tuesday, with financials and tech stocks leading gains as investors cheered potential medical advances to combat the coronavirus pandemic even as local daily cases crept higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed as much as 1.1% to its highest since March 9 before paring some gains to trade 0.5% higher at 6,160 by 0118 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3% on Monday.

Risk sentiment was boosted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the use of blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a treatment option, and reports that the U.S. government was considering fast-tracking an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Victoria, the Australian state at the centre of the country’s coronavirus second wave, reported 148 fresh coronavirus cases on Tuesday, more than the previous day but well down from peak levels, and eight deaths.

Financial stocks advanced 2.6%, with the “Big Four” banks rising between 2.7% and 3.9%.

Technology stocks rose 3.8% to an all-time high after the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite’s record close overnight.

Medical and industrial glove maker Ansell Ltd climbed 3.7% to an all-time high on higher annual profit and strong earnings forecast.

Oil Search rose 2.7%, in line with other oil and gas producers on higher oil prices overnight, despite posting an 85% plunge in half-year profit.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index tacked on 0.4% to 11,963.7 and was on track for a third straight session of gains.

Tourism Holdings Ltd was the top percentage gainer on the index with a 5.8% jump , followed by local shares of Westpac Banking Corp, up 3.8%. (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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