January 9, 2019 / 12:46 AM / 11 days ago

Australia shares hit 5-wk high on U.S.-China trade talks, NZ jumps

* Trade talks optimism pushes Aussie shares to 5-wk high

* Health care stocks lead gains

* Energy index jumps on strength in oil prices

By Aditya Soni

Jan 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares climbed to a five-week high on Wednesday, following sharp gains on Wall Street, buoyed by optimism that China and the United States will sign a deal to end a months-long trade war that has roiled world markets.

The trade talks, which have soothed investor concerns and propelled global shares higher, will continue for an unscheduled third day on Wednesday, following which a statement is likely to be issued.

Signs of progress have become visible in light of the meeting, with U.S. President Donald Trump tweeting “talks with China are going very well!”, while Beijing approved the import of five genetically modified crops, which could boost its purchases of U.S. grains.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.5 percent or 30.4 points to 5,752.8 by 0025 GMT amid broad-based gains. The benchmark added 0.7 percent on Tuesday.

“Markets are preoccupied with the trade war and it seems apparent that both sides are determined to see a resolution,” said Kyle Rodda, market analyst at IG Markets.

“The positivity seen out of (the trade talks) is adding to the momentum.”

Healthcare stocks jumped 1.3 percent to a near three-month high, leading gains on the benchmark.

Drugmaker CSL Ltd, which earns a majority of its revenue in the United States and China, firmed 1.8 percent to its highest since Nov. 9, while hearing devices maker Cochlear Ltd climbed 3.8 percent.

Energy stocks rose 1.3 percent to a more than five-week high and were on track for a fifth consecutive session of gains, benefiting from continued strength in oil prices.

Oil prices rose more than 2 percent on Tuesday, supported by hopes that crude demand may rise more quickly if talks between U.S. and Chinese officials resolve the trade dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the country’s largest independent gas and oil producer, advanced 1.2 percent to its highest since Nov. 16, while Oil Search Ltd rose 1.2 percent.

Heavyweight financial stocks also underpinned the rally, with lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd firming as much as 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.7 percent or 60.21 points to 8,881.36, its highest since Dec. 4.

Financials and consumer stocks led the rally, with Goodman Property Trust rising 0.7 percent, while A2 Milk Company Ltd climbed 2.4 percent to a more than three-month high.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Shriya R; editing by Richard Pullin

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