January 9, 2019 / 5:42 AM / a month ago

Australia, NZ shares hit 8-week high on optimism over Sino-U.S. trade talks

* Energy & mining stocks jump on firm oil, base metal prices

* Healthcare stocks hit near 3-month high (Updates to close)

Jan 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended at an 8-week high on Wednesday as global markets rallied on renewed optimism that the United States and China are inching toward a deal to end their bruising trade war.

In palpable relief after weeks of volatility in markets, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan climbed 1.5 percent to its highest level since Dec. 14.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed up 1 percent or 55.9 points to 5,778.30, building on a gain of 0.7 percent in the previous session.

News that Sino-U.S. trade talks in Beijing had been extended into an unscheduled third day boosted risk appetite.

U.S. President Donald Trump later said on Twitter that “Talks with China are going very well!”

Energy stocks soared 1.9 percent to an over 5-week high, with sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd putting on 2.3 percent while Oil Search Ltd added 2.7 percent.

Oil prices surged on Wednesday, extending gains from the previous session as renewed U.S.- China trade talks and supply cuts by OPEC propped up markets.

A jump in iron-ore and copper prices supported miners, with the metals and mining index tacking on 0.5 percent.

Rio Tinto Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group rose 1.1 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.

Gold stocks caught a break after steep falls in the previous two sessions to edge higher. Beadell Resources Ltd was the top gainer on the sub-index after its December gold production surged 27 percent compared to November.

Financial stocks also rose, with three of the “Big Four” lenders notching gains. Magellan Financial Group Ltd was the best performer, adding over 10 percent to end at a near 5-week high.

Healthcare stocks raced ahead, tacking on 2.1 percent to hit a near 3-month high. Heavyweight CSL Ltd rose 2.6 percent while Cochlear Ltd gained 2.9 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index jumped 1.4 percent or 126.07 points to finish at 8,947.22, an over 8-week high.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd was among top gainers, up 3.7 percent while Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund firmed 1.3 percent. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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