April 26, 2017 / 6:45 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares close stronger, NZ index at 6-mth high

(Updates to close)

April 26 (Reuters) - New Zealand shares hit more than a six-month high on Wednesday, led by gains in the healthcare and materials sectors, while Australian shares also ended higher as financials outperformed. Both markets were closed on Tuesday for the ANZAC day public holiday.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 40.217 points or 0.68 percent higher, at 5,912.

Sentiment was helped by Wall Street's strength overnight and the global rally that followed the first round of the French presidential election, which opinion polls suggested put the centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron on course for victory in the run-off on May 7.

Australia's 'Big four' banks and general insurers helped the financial index hit a two-year high at the close by rising as much as 1.40 percent to 6,973.500.

Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto added gains, boosted by a 2 percent rise in China steel futures prices on Tuesday.

Biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd led gains in the healthcare sector, closing at a record high of A$130.395.

Grocer Woolworths, an index heavyweight, also strengthened, while rival Wesfarmers rose 0.43 percent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.55 percent or 112.19 points to close at 7,335.13, its highest since October 5, 2016.

A2 Milk made a record high after the company said it was seeing unexpectedly high demand for its infant milk formula via Chinese e-commerce.

Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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