January 9, 2017 / 6:02 AM / in 6 months

Australia shares end at 20-month high; New Zealand up

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(Updates to close)

Jan 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed firmer on Monday posting their fifth straight session of gains, pushed up by financials and healthcare companies, in line with U.S. stocks hitting new highs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended the session up 0.9 percent, or 51.819 points, to 5,807.4, its highest close since May 5, 2015.

The financial sector was up with the index gaining 1.5 percent, pushed up by the "Big Four" banks rising more than 1 percent each.

Healthcare stocks led gainers on the main index, with CSL Ltd ending up 1.6 percent at its highest since Oct. 21 after the European Commission granted marketing authorisation for haemophilia drug AFSTYLA developed by CSL's unit.

Ramsay Healthcare also gained 3 percent to its highest since Nov. 14.

On the other hand, basic material stocks lost as Australia's Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has forecast a steep decline in iron ore prices, its most valuable export commodity, calling an end to an unexpected rally fuelled by strong demand from China.

Iron ore producer Fortescue Metals lost 3.8 percent to end at its lowest in more than two weeks. BHP Billiton shed 0.1 percent while Rio Tinto declined 1.3 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.6 percent higher, or 42.08 points, to finish the session at 7,012.74, its highest close since Oct. 17

Financial and industrial stocks pulled up the index as Westpac Banking Corp gained 1.8 percent while Auckland International Airport added 1.6 percent.

On the losing side, consumer cyclicals eased with Fletcher Building shedding nearly 2 percent in its third consecutive session. (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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