Oct 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose on Thursday as
banks gained and firm commodity prices boosted metal-centric
stocks, with sentiment aided by the country's second-largest
city preparing to come out of the world's longest COVID-19
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.15% to 7,425.1 by 0052
GMT. The benchmark rose about 0.53% on Wednesday.
Melbourne is readying to come out of its lockdown on
Thursday night after Victoria state hit a key vaccination
target, with pubs, restaurants and cafes racing to reopen their
doors to fully vaccinated customers.
Among the "Big Four" banks, National Australia Bank
climbed the most and hit its highest in about two years. The
sector's sub-index added 0.4%.
Wealth manager Perpetual Ltd was the top gainer on
the financials sub-index, gaining 6.3%. Wealth manager AMP Ltd
followed with its 5.4% to hit a more than 3-1/2-month
high on reporting lower net cash outflows at its Australian
wealth management unit.
Gambling machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure
jumped 7.9% to a record high after the company said it would buy
London-listed gaming software supplier Playtech PLC for
2.1 billion pounds ($2.90 billion).
Miners rose 0.6%, tracking an overnight rally in
base metals on concerns that the global power crunch could hit
already thinning inventories.
The country's big mining names BHP Group and
Fortescue Metals climbed 0.7% and 1%, respectively,
on improved iron ore prices.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell
0.16% to 13,093.6. Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei was down
0.6%, while S&P 500 E-minis futures slipped 0.18%.
($1 = 0.7233 pounds)
(Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)