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Financials, tech stocks drive Australian market higher

* Communication services sector boosted by Telstra

* Miners fall on reports China halted coal imports

* New Zealand rises to record close, up 0.8% (Updates to close)

Oct 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares settled higher on Tuesday for the seventh straight session, as financials jumped on some economic optimism and dividend hopes, and technology stocks tracked Wall Street higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1% to 6,195.70, adding about 7% during the seven sessions of gains through Tuesday.

Financials closed 1.7% higher, after having hit their highest level since Aug. 12 earlier in the session, with the “Big Four” banks adding between 1.7% and 3.3%.

“There are some signs that there is a bit of optimism for the economy moving forward, and that’s helping banks have a pretty good run,” said James Tao, a market analyst at CommSec.

Last week, the Australian government pledged billions in tax cuts and measures to boost jobs, which was quite accommodative for the economy.

Additionally, eased lending standards for banks have also brightened growth prospects for the economy, which slid into recession for the first time in nearly 30 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Banks are still tempting for punters who believe dividends will come back,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Technology stocks tracked a rally in their U.S. peers, particularly in Apple Inc and Amazon.com , and rose 1.6% to a record.

The communication services sector closed 2.4% higher, boosted by Telstra Corp’s more than 4% gain after the telecom company retained its annual dividend.

Limiting gains, the mining sector slipped 0.3%, mostly dragged by coal companies following reports that China has stopped taking Australian coal shipments.

West African Resources Ltd was the top loser with a drop of 10.74%, while Ioneer Ltd shed 4.88%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.79% to a record close of 12,453.9.

New Zealand-listed shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd were the top gainers, up 3.63%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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