(Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on Thursday as a decline in daily cases in COVID-19 hot spot Victoria boosted hopes of an easing in restrictions, with investors awaiting a European Central Bank policy decision later in the day.
A dip in daily infections in Victoria to double-digits in the recent days and the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt’s urge to lift the state’s night curfew, if not imposed on medical grounds, stirred hopes of a relaxation in curbs.
The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO closed 0.5% higher at 5,908.5, retreating from an intraday high of 1.3% during the session.
Investors also adopted a wait-and-see approach ahead of a European Central Bank policy decision, said IC Markets General Manager Nick Twidale. The decision is due at 1145 GMT and the central bank is expected to keep policy unchanged.
“There’s probably not a commitment to carry on driving the market higher until we get a bit more clarity.”
Recent escalations in diplomatic tensions with China could also impact the broader economy and put doubt in people’s mind as to what was likely to happen, said Doug Symes, client advisor at Novus Capital.
Beijing accused Australia of harassing Chinese journalists by searching and seizing items from their homes on Wednesday.
Among individual shares and sectors, the gold index .AXGD finished 2.4% higher as the bullion hit a near one-week high, with ASX-listed shares of AngloGold Ashanti AGG.AX and Newcrest Mining NCM.AX gaining 2.3% and 1.8%, each. [GOL/]
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.6% to finish the session at 11,811.78.
Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.