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Australia shares climb as U.S. aid bill passage boosts sentiment, NZ at record high

* Energy stocks, financials lead gains; gold miners lag

* ASX trading volumes sharply below 30-day avg

* NZ50 hits record high, Meridian Energy top gainer

Dec 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Tuesday, notching broad-based gains after Wall Street stock indexes hit record highs overnight on the passage of a long-awaited U.S. pandemic aid bill, lifting sentiment and spurring hopes for an economic recovery.

The S&P/ASX 200 index added 0.6% to 6,706.9 by 2347 GMT, with trading volumes less than a tenth of the 30-day average after a Christmas holiday-extended weekend. The benchmark had risen 0.3% on Dec. 24.

U.S. indexes got a boost from President Donald Trump’s signing of the $2.3 trillion aid bill, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans and averting a federal government shutdown.

The energy sub-index rose more than 1% despite a dip in oil prices, with sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd adding 2.5% while the smaller Beach Energy Ltd rose 4%.

Financial stocks also rose, with the country’s “Big Four” lenders adding between 0.8% and 1.4%. Investment managers Pendal Group and IOOF Holdings were among top performers for the session, up 1.5% and 1.1%, respectively.

Technology stocks also jumped, with buy-now-pay-later company Afterpay Ltd gaining most among them with an 1.9% rise.

Healthcare stocks, which are favoured for their defensive nature during uncertain times, played laggard with a 0.2% rise. Biotechnology company CSL Ltd inched up 0.3%.

Gold stocks bucked the trend to ease 0.6%, as investors shifted holdings out of safe-havens and towards riskier investments amid hopes of improving economic prospects. Sector heavyweight Newcrest Mining Ltd shed 0.9%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.9% to hit a record high at 13,152.39. Power producer Meridian Energy Ltd was the session’s top performer, adding more than 4%.

Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates

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