April 27, 2020 / 7:51 AM / a month ago

Australian shares close higher on global stimulus hopes

(Updates to close)

By Soumyajit Saha

April 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares jumped on Monday, in line with global peers, as the Bank of Japan (BOJ) kicked off a week packed with major central bank meetings with a fresh round of stimulus to arrest the coronavirus outbreak’s economic impact.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.5% higher at 5,321.4, with gains being broad based. The benchmark rose 0.5% on Friday.

The BOJ on Monday pledged to buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to support the Japanese economy.

The action by Japan’s central bank boosted hopes that other central banks will also deliver further policy support, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank meet later in the week, with the latter likely to do more bond buying.

Domestic measures against the pandemic also helped lift sentiment, McCarthy said.

Australia, one of the most successful countries in fighting the pandemic, reported just five new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, and an app to help trace close contacts of patients was downloaded over a million times within five hours of launch.

A sub-index of healthcare stocks rose 2.8%, with sector heavyweight CSL Ltd ending 2.1% higher. Industrial stocks also underpinned the bullish sentiment, with Sydney Airport Holdings rising 4.5%, while toll-road operator Transurban Group gained 3.7%.

Financial stocks, however, ended slightly lower after falling nearly 2% earlier as the country’s third-largest lender, National Australia Bank, reported a 51% plunge in first-half profit and cut its dividend.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s stock market was closed for a holiday. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni)

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