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Australia shares at near 9-month high as biggest states reopen borders

* Borders reopening to likely boost Melbourne-Sydney air traffic

* Miners lead gains on rising iron futures

* NZ retail sales see strong rebound in Q3

Nov 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose to a near nine-month high on Monday, as the country’s two most populous states reopened borders after more than four months, bolstering hopes of a speedy revival from the coronavirus-induced economic fallout.

New South Wales and Victoria reopened their borders at midnight after closing them off in early July. The borders were last shut in 1919 during the Spanish flu pandemic.

Reopening of the borders is likely to jump-start air traffic between Melbourne and Sydney, one of the busiest routes in the world before the outbreak.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7% at 6,582.6 at 0022 GMT, set for its biggest percentage gain in a week. The benchmark index hit its highest since Feb. 28.

Travel-related stocks raked in significant gains, with Qantas Airways climbing as much as 3% after the flag carrier said domestic capacity would rise as a result of the states reopening borders.

Sydney Airport Holdings and Regional Express Holdings both advanced 1.6%.

Bourse operator ASX eased 0.6% after the country’s corporate regulator launched an investigation into an outage at the country’s stock exchange last week.

Meanwhile, Village Roadshow surged 16.7% after the theme park operator received a sweetened takeover bid from suitor BGH Capital.

Heavyweight miners led gains on the benchmark as BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group jumped 3.7% and 5.6%, respectively.

Iron ore futures pushed higher as mills in China reported shrinking steel inventories.

Woodside Petroleum rose 1.6% and Santos gained 2.5% to be the biggest gainers on the energy sub-index , as oil prices jumped on successful COVID-19 vaccine trials.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to 12,484.88, with Meridian Energy and Fisher and Paykel Healthcare being the biggest gainers.

Retail sales in the country rebounded sharply in the third quarter on the back of pent-up demand and looser virus curbs, according to analysts at ANZ Research.

Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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