* Benchmark index closes nearly 2 pct higher
* Mining, financial stocks advance firmly
* Energy index rises 3.2 pct on overnight oil price surge (Updates to close)
Dec 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose sharply on Thursday, led by resource- based stocks, following an overnight surge in U.S. equities that provided some post-Christmas cheer for investors.
The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 1.9 pct to finished at 5,597.20 when the market reopened after a two-day holiday. The benchmark gained 0.5 percent on Monday.
Wall Street saw a buying frenzy overnight as markets latched on to upbeat U.S data and efforts by the Trump administration to soothe battered equities.
A White House official said on Wednesday that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s job was not in jeopardy, just days after President Donald Trump described the Federal Reserve as the “only problem” to the U.S.
Australia’s metals and mining index gained 1.7 percent to its highest closing level since Nov. 12. Copper prices recovered from their lowest in three months while prices for coal and coking coal rose in China, the biggest importer of Australian minerals.
Shares of mining giant BHP Group Ltd rose 1.9 percent while those of South32 Ltd advanced 3.4 percent.
Energy stocks soared 3.2 percent after a overnight surge saw oil prices post their strongest daily gain in more than two years. However, worries of oversupply and slackening demand continued to put pressure on markets.
Oil & gas explorer Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 4.2 percent, while peers Santos Ltd and Oil Search Ltd advanced 3.1 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.
Australia’s ‘Big Four’ banks gained between 1.4 percent and 2.5 percent.
The biggest lender, Commonwealth Bank of Australia ,rose 2.5 percent and National Australia Bank Ltd advanced 1.9 percent.
For the day, the financial stocks index was up 1.8 percent. For the year, during which banks were embroiled in a public inquiry after revelations of misconduct, the index is down 17 percent.
Healthcare stocks also clocked significant gains, with index heavyweight CSL Ltd jumping 3.4 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.689 percent or 60.01 points to finish the session at 8,774.52.
Auckland International Airport Ltd gained 2.4 percent and a2 Milk rose 2.6 percent. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)