(Updates to close)
March 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at their best level in more than a week on Friday, as financial stocks surged in anticipation of an imminent U.S. interest rate hike next week.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.6 percent or 34.4 points to 5,775.60 at the close of trade. The benchmark index fell 0.32 percent on Thursday. For the week, the index gained 0.8 percent.
The region’s financial index closed at its highest since April 2015 in its fifth consecutive session of gains.
Macquarie Group led the gains among financials, posting its highest close in nearly 10 years.
The “big four” banks also closed high, with Westpac Banking finishing at its highest since May 2015.
Also closing firmer were healthcare stocks, rallying as the Republican plan backed by President Donald Trump to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system cleared its first hurdles in Congress.
Biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd closed at a record high.
On the flipside, materials stocks continued to lose due to weak commodity prices.
The metals and mining index closed at its lowest in more than 2 months in its fourth consecutive session of losses.
Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto closed at their lowest since November 2016 and December 2016, respectively.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.51 percent or 36.61 points to finish the session at 7,177.59.
The index gained 0.23 percent this week.
Healthcare stocks pushed up the index, with medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare racing up to close at a near 5-month high.
Reporting by Ambar Warrick; Editing by Jacqueline Wong