Company News

Australia shares open higher as U.S. stimulus talks progress

* U.S. President Trump says restarted COVID-19 relief negotiations

* New South Wales reports biggest one-day rise in infections

* Oil prices jumped ahead of storm in U.S. Gulf of Mexico

Oct 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares opened higher on Friday, lifted mostly by energy and gold stocks, after U.S. President Donald Trump revived hopes of a deal with Congress to expedite further relief for the coronavirus-ravaged economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.14% at 6,102 points as at 2350 GMT.

Overnight, all three major U.S. indices closed higher after Trump, in an interview with Fox News, said talks with Congress had restarted on further COVID-19 relief, two days after he called off negotiations on a comprehensive bill.

Though mixed messages about stimulus will likely continue to trigger choppy markets, said analysts.

Back home, Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales on Thursday reported its biggest one-day rise in infections in more than a month.

Among stocks and sectors, the energy sector soared as much as 1.5%, as oil prices jumped on output shutdowns ahead of a storm in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and the possibility of supply cuts from Saudi Arabia and Norway.

Oil and gas explorers Santos Ltd and Oil Search Ltd rose 2.1% and 2.7%, respectively.

Gold stocks climbed about 2%, alongside a rise in the prices of the underlying commodity, helped by uncertainty about the U.S. presidential election and bets that fresh stimulus would drive inflation.

The country’s top gold producer Newcrest Mining rose as much as 1.2% after its board approved the second-stage expansion of its flagship Cadia gold mine and the Lihir mine’s front-end recovery project.

On the other hand, utilities fell about 0.8%, with the country’s top power producer AGL Energy losing 0.7%.

Healthcare stocks also declined, with medical devices maker Resmed Inc down 0.8%.

Engineering contractor CIMIC Group was among the top gainers in the index, after reporting that transaction with a new equity investor for its mining services business, Thiess, is “well-progressed”.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to 12,267.9, helped by financial and healthcare stocks.

Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips