Stimulus hopes put Australia shares on track for best week in 2 months

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Stimulus hopes put Australia shares on track for best week in 2 months

* Brisbane to undergo lockdown starting Friday evening

* Wall Street rises overnight on further stimulus hopes

* Energy stocks benefit from strong oil prices

Jan 8 (Reuters) – Australia shares were poised for their best week since November 2020, as investors priced in the prospects of vaccine roll-outs next month and further U.S. stimulus, though news of an imminent three-day lockdown in Brisbane city curbed gains on Friday.

Queensland state authorities said they would enforce the lockdown in the country’s third-largest city later in the day after the discovery of a case of the more contagious variant of COVID-19 that emerged in Britain.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.1% to 6,712 points by 2355 GMT, and was on track to close the week 2.4% firmer.

Bets that a Democrat-controlled Senate would help President-elect Joe Biden implement further stimulus in the near future helped boost sentiment earlier in the week, while the Australian government’s plan to accelerate planned inoculation against COVID-19 also supported risk appetite.

“The positive sentiment in the market has mostly been a reflection of Wall Street’s recent strength … participants are still hopeful for further spending in the United States in the near future,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at Commsec.

Tech stocks jumped 2%, with Xero Ltd and REA Group gaining 0.8% and 0.7%, respectively.

Energy stocks were also trading higher, buoyed by rising oil prices after major producer Saudi Arabia pledged to cut production.

Oil and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search Ltd advanced 0.5% and 2.9%, respectively.

Miners were trading lower, with global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto falling 0.9% and 1.3%, respectively.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 768, while 515 declined.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7%, helped by gains among utility and tech stocks. The benchmark index was on track to gain 0.6% for the week. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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