November 29, 2019 / 1:29 AM / 14 days ago

Australian, NZ shares hit record highs on upbeat outlook

* ASX benchmark set to post best week since Feb. 2018

* Healthcare index on track to rise 4.8% for the week

* NZ consumer confidence rises in Nov - private survey

By Niyati Shetty

Nov 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose for a sixth straight session on Friday, driven by healthcare stocks and as prospects of local monetary policy easing buoyed risk sentiment.

However, trading volumes were low in the region as U.S. financial markets were closed for a Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3%, or 21.30 points, to a record high of 6,885.30 by 0054 GMT. The benchmark was set for its best week since early February.

“Markets have got a bit of a head of steam at the moment,” said Henry Jennings, senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter. “There is a fear of missing out starting to creep in as the market keeps pushing higher.”

Meanwhile, disappointing domestic economic data also increased speculation of further rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of Australia next year, driving gains in riskier assets.

“Investors are happy to ignore the economic backdrop and hope that the promised land is somewhat better across the valley of this economic downturn,” Jennings added.

The country’s gross domestic product figures due next week are expected to show another quarter of modest growth.

Australian healthcare stocks, seen as defensive plays, added up to 1.2%. The sub-index was set to rise 4.8% this week, highest since Nov. 2018.

Sector heavyweight CSL Ltd rose 1.4% to touch an all-time high.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Macquarie Group advanced up to 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively, buoying the financial sub-index.

A recovery in iron ore prices on Thursday helped top miner BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group record slight gains, but falling gold miners weighed on the mining sub-index.

Spot bullion prices were marginally lower at 0054 GMT, with Newcrest Mining Ltd falling 1.2% and Evolution Mining Ltd retreating 1.5%.

In neighbouring New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed up to 0.9% to a record high of 11,308.13.

A private sector survey by ANZ-Roy Morgan on consumer confidence in the country showed the index rose 3 points in November.

“The lift was driven by increased confidence about the economic outlook, but confidence that it’s a good time to buy a major item lifted as well,” ANZ said in a note.

Utilities firm Meridian Energy Ltd climbed 5%, while dairy products maker a2 Milk Co added 2.2%. (Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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