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Australian shares advance as new coronavirus cases ease

* Victoria reports lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in 2 months

* Woolworths climbs nearly 3% on higher supermarket sales

* NZ benchmark up for fifth straight session

Aug 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Thursday, tracking Wall Street’s record-setting rally overnight, as sentiment was lifted by a fall in new COVID-19 cases in the country’s virus hot spot state.

U.S. stocks surged on Wednesday, pushing the S&P 500 to its fourth straight record closing high, on the back of upbeat corporate earnings.

At home, the southeastern state of Victoria recorded 23 deaths from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours and 113 new cases, its lowest daily rise in nearly two months, aided by strict lockdown measures.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6% to 6,155.5 points by 0129 GMT. The benchmark ended 0.7% lower on Wednesday.

Gold stocks jumped as much as 4% in their biggest intraday percentage gain in a month as U.S. gold futures rose ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech later in the day.

That helped push heavyweight miners up 1.8%.

Limiting gains on the benchmark index, energy stocks fell 0.8%, dragged down by Whitehaven Coal after brokerages turned bearish on the miner following a profit plunge on Wednesday.

Australia’s biggest buy-now-pay-later company Afterpay Ltd rose 0.6% after hitting a record high in the session as the company said its annual loss more than halved.

Shares of Woolworths Group Ltd rose 2.9% after the country’s biggest supermarket chain reported a rise in annual supermarket sales on coronavirus-led stockpiling.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 0.2% higher to 12,053.4 and is on track to post its fifth straight session of gains.

Air New Zealand shares gained 0.4% as the carrier plans to draw on a NZ$900 million ($596.34 million) government loan within days to help it weather the pandemic after reporting its first annual loss in almost two decades.

Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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