July 21, 2020 / 6:32 AM / 20 days ago

Australia shares rise on stimulus, vaccine hopes

* Australian benchmark sees highest close since June 10

* Healthcare stocks boosted by positive vaccine data

* Travel stocks gain (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

July 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Tuesday, marking their best session since June 16, after the country’s central bank advocated for further fiscal stimulus, boosting demand for riskier assets.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 2.6% up at 6,156.30, highest since June 10. The benchmark had settled 0.6% lower on Monday.

Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe on Tuesday urged the government to borrow more and boost public spending to support the country’s economic recovery.

Lowe said the government could “smooth things out” through direct cash transfers to households and businesses as well as by boosting public spending on infrastructure and wage subsidy schemes.

“The RBA talked up the labour market and kept the status quo in many ways. This is the biggest driver today coming up from a flat U.S. market close,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Promising early data from trials of three potential COVID-19 vaccines, which bolstered hopes that vaccines against the disease might be ready by the end of year, also supported market sentiment.

The Technology sector, which rose 5.7% and closed at a record high, was the top gainer on the Australian benchmark index.

WiseTech Global closed 4.3% higher, while Afterpay added nearly 8%.

Healthcare stocks rose 3.7%, cheering the potential vaccine results, with CSL Ltd gaining 3.9%, and Cochlear firming 5.7%.

The heavyweight financial index rose slmodt 3%, marking its best day since June 10, with the Big Four banks closing above 2%.

Australia’s travel stocks also rebounded, with travel services provider Corporate Travel Management, one of the biggest percentage gainers on the benchmark, closing over 9% higher.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 1.6% higher at 11,736.73.

Top gainers were Kathmandu Holdings, finishing 4.5% up, followed by Skycity Entertainment that rose 4%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)

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