January 8, 2019 / 5:40 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares end higher on Sino-U.S. trade talks; NZ edges up

* Healthcare stocks close at near 2-month high

* Energy and financials underpin gains (Updates to close)

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended higher on Tuesday, tracking an extended rally on Wall Street that was fuelled by hopes that Sino-U.S. trade talks in Beijing will succeed in ending a damaging trade war.

Investors’ optimism also stemmed from strong U.S. jobs data and comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell that he would be patient and flexible with policy decisions this year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.7 percent or 39.20 points to 5,722.40 at the close of trade. The benchmark had gained over 1 percent on Monday.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross predicted on Monday that both sides could reach a trade deal that “we can live with” as dozens of officials from both countries resumed talks in a bid to end their trade dispute.

Energy stocks tacked on 0.7 percent at close to touch an over 1-month high, with sector heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd up 0.7 percent and Origin Energy Ltd firming 2.8 percent.

The sector posted its fourth straight session of gains, as oil prices rallied on trade talk hopes, while the start of OPEC-led supply cuts also tightened energy markets.

Among top boosts to the benchmark was the financial sector which ended at a more than 1-month high.

Lenders Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd rose 1.5 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

Healthcare stocks closed at a near-two month high as weakness in the Aussie dollar lent support, with heavyweight CSL Ltd up 1.5 percent and Sigma Healthcare Ltd rising 6.6 percent.

Australian healthcare firms, which conduct a bulk of their business outside the country, benefit from a weaker local dollar.

Meanwhile, gold stocks plummeted as a recent recovery in risk-sentiment dented the appeal of gold miners. St Barbara Ltd slipped 4.8 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.17 percent or 15.11 points to finish the session at 8,821.150.

Fletcher Building Ltd rose 1.6 percent while dairy processor Synlait Milk Ltd advanced 1.1 percent. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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