Australian shares rise as U.S. jobs data, stimulus spur global recovery bets

* Healthcare stocks set for fourth straight day of gains

* Afterpay top performer on the Australian benchmark index

March 12 (Reuters) – Australian shares gained on Friday as hopes of a strong global economic recovery increased after U.S. jobless claims fell and President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The S&P/ASX 200 index gained 0.6% to 6,752 by 2308 GMT and was set to post its second consecutive weekly gain.

Biden on Thursday signed into law one of the biggest relief packages in U.S. history, aimed at spurring economic growth, while data showed fewer than expected Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index and the S&P 500 closed at all-time highs.

In Australia, technology stocks rose 1.5% as buy now, pay later company Afterpay rose 3.1%, followed by Appen, which gained 2.4%.

Mining stocks added 1.4%, with OZ Minerals and Pilbara Minerals advancing 3.6% and 3.5%, respectively.

Financial stocks rose 0.5% led by Insurance Australia Group Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, gaining 1.3% and 1%, respectively.

Southern Cross Media Group slipped almost 11% to a near four-month low after broadcaster Nine Entertainment said it will not extend its regional television affiliation agreement with the company.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.5% 12,327.4.

The country unveiled on Friday a NZ$31 billion ($22.41 billion) transport infrastructure package for its largest city, Auckland, as it looks to address years of investment backlogs on public transport and lower emissions. ($1 = 1.3833 New Zealand dollars) (Reporting by Aditya Munjuluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)


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Aditya Munjuluru