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Company News

Australian shares rise as coronavirus curbs ease in Victoria; NZ flat

* NZ’s Jacinda Ardern re-elected as New Zealand’s leader on Saturday

* Aussie metals and mining index leads

* Crown Resorts hit with another regulatory probe, shares slump

Oct 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained on Monday after Victoria state eased its months-long coronavirus lockdown and as U.S. officials said a new stimulus package could be passed before presidential elections.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.8% or 46.7 points to 6,223.20 by 2336 GMT, led by miners and financials. The benchmark fell 0.5% on Friday.

Victoria, Australia’s second-most populous state which was at the epicentre of the country’s coronavirus outbreak, will see more freedom of movement as of Monday, with the state government eyeing a reopening of restaurants and retail stores by Nov. 1.

Global sentiment improved after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was optimistic that a legislation on coronavirus relief package could be pushed through before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Australian metals and mining index, the largest constituent on the benchmark, gained 1.3%. Manganese and coal miner South32 Ltd rallied 5% after reporting a jump in first-quarter production.

The world’s biggest miner BHP Group Ltd rose 0.7%, while peer Rio Tinto Ltd added 0.6%.

Australia’s “Big Four” lenders - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, National Australia Bank and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group - rose between 0.8% to 1%.

The healthcare index was boosted by biotech major CSL Ltd 1.4% gain.

A decliner was Australia’s biggest casino operator Crown Resorts, which fell 9% to a near six-month low, after it said the country’s financial crime watchdog launched a probe into its Melbourne business on suspicions of money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark index was little changed at 12,416, in its first trading day since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s landslide victory in the parliamentary elections over the weekend.

The top losers on the index were Meridian Energy Ltd , which dropped 2.5%, followed by Mercury NZ Ltd , down 2.1%.

Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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