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Australian shares end higher as RBA minutes, lower virus cases lift mood

* CSL boosts healthcare index

* Treasury Wines tumbles after China’s anti-dumping probe

* New Zealand shares close higher (Updates to close)

Aug 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Tuesday, with healthcare stocks leading gains, as the central bank’s minutes showed some optimism around its economy and the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in the country appeared to ease.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.8% higher at 6,123.40, following a 0.8% slide on Monday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia does not see a need to further ease policy for now as its measures were working “broadly as expected” with a recovery underway in most of the country, its August policy meeting’s minutes showed.

“The RBA does seem a little more optimistic on the outlook and not as pessimistic as they were,” Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcus Today Financial said.

“If things did get bad, they could do further stimulus measures. So, I think that has helped the markets.”

Aiding sentiment, lower COVID-19 cases were reported in Victoria and New South Wales and Australia is now set to mark its lowest one-day rise in infections in a month.

Healthcare stocks climbed 4.2% to close at their highest since May 26, boosted by CSL Ltd’s 4.4% jump.

The drugmaker said it is in talks with Cambridge-based AstraZeneca, a frontrunner in the global race for a COVID-19 vaccine, to see if a potential coronavirus vaccine can be manufactured locally.

Technology stocks rose 2.1%, led by Megaport Ltd , up 10.7%, followed by WiseTech Global Ltd, gaining 6.4%.

But limiting gains on the benchmark was Treasury Wine Estates, which dropped 14.4% to its lowest close since July 10, after China, its biggest market, began an anti-dumping investigation into imports of wine from Australia.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.51% to 11,849.1.

Top gainers were Summerset Group Holdings Ltd, up 6.44% and Synlait Milk Ltd, gaining 4.86%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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