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Australia shares gain on boost from healthcare, NZ retreats

* CSL hits its highest in nearly three months

* Gold stocks snap four day winning streak

* A2 Milk Co set for worst session in more than a month

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Wednesday, buoyed by strong gains in healthcare stocks after the country’s biggest biotech firm reported a 17% jump in annual earnings, while a further slowdown in domestic coronavirus cases also lifted sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.4% by 0041 GMT. The benchmark advanced 0.8% on Tuesday.

CSL’s 2020 results were boosted by higher sales of its immunoglobulin drugs Privigen and Hizentra, which offset lower plasma collections, as movement curbs due to the virus outbreak restricted people from donating blood.

The company is also in talks with AstraZeneca to locally manufacture the British drugmaker’s potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Healthcare stocks jumped to their highest in four months, sparked by the gains in CSL which jumped over 4%.

Adding to the positive note, Australia’s second most populous state recorded 12 COVID-19 deaths, down from 17 a day earlier, signalling of a further stabilization in new cases.

Technology stocks rose 2.1% led by WiseTech Global Ltd, up 20.57%, followed by Afterpay Ltd, which gained 1.91%.

The country’s no.4 lender by market cap, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, jumped over 2% after it said it would pay an interim dividend.

Bucking the mood, gold stocks fell 1.16% led by Resolute Mining Ltd, down 8.18%, followed by AngloGold Ashanti Ltd, losing 4.76%.

Saracen Mineral Holdings dropped 1% after the gold miner said it will not pay an annual dividend.

In other news, Crown Resorts lost more than 1.5% as the country’s biggest casino operator posted a plunge in annual profit and scrapped its final dividend.

As of 0046 GMT, New Zealand’s benchmark fell 0.6%, after touching a six-month high in the previous session, pulled lower by dairy and real estate stocks.

A2 Milk Co was set for its worst session since July 16 as the dairy producer forecast a slightly lower earnings margin for fiscal 2021, while country’s largest construction firm Fletcher Building shed nearly 1.5% after reporting an annual loss. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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