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Company News

Australia shares rise ahead of Powell's speech

* Business investment falls but ahead of expectations

* Gold stocks rise after six sessions of losses

* NZX shuts stock exchange after cyber attacks (Updates to close)

Aug 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares settled higher on Thursday as sentiment was lifted by better-than-expected business investment data and Victoria reporting its lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in nearly two months.

Investors are now looking for hints from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech, due at 1310 GMT, that the central bank might tweak its policy framework to help push up inflation.

“Certainly investors are expecting a more dovish stance from Powell,” said Nick Twidale, director at Xchainge.

“Therefore, if he isn’t as dovish as we expect it may hit Australian equities harder than the rest of the world because it’s an exporting country and a commodity country.”

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2% to 6,126.20, marking a third session of gain in four, as data showed Australian business investment fell by less-than-feared last quarter and future spending plans remained surprisingly intact.

Also helping mood, Victoria, the hotbed of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the country, on Wednesday reported its lowest one-day rise in new cases in nearly two months.

Gold stocks were the stand-out performers on the benchmark, rising 2.2% after bullion prices firmed overnight on stimulus bets ahead of Powell’s speech. The safe-haven metal, however, gave up some of its gains on profit-booking in Asian trading hours.

Heavyweight miners clocked gains on the back of stronger iron ore prices, with BHP Group adding 1.1% and Fortescue Metals Group climbing 3.1% to a record.

On the flip side, financials ended 0.6% lower, with lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank being the biggest drags.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2% to 12,053.43 before bourse operator NZX Ltd halted trading on the stock exchange for the day following cyberattacks over the last two days. (Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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