* Financials and healthcare firms top gainers
* NZ bourse marks best day in about two weeks
* NZ's Skycity Entertainment rises on profit jump
Sept 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares extended gains on
Thursday, tracking a rally on Wall Street as stronger data from
the world's top two economies and hopes of additional U.S.
stimulus lifted investor sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose as much as 0.9% and was
up 0.6% at 6,101.2 by 1235 GMT, heading for a second straight
session of gains.
Overnight, all three major U.S. stock indexes closed higher,
boosted by a more than expected rise in U.S. factory orders and
an expansion in U.S. private payrolls last month.
However, reports of a sluggish recovery in some sectors in
the United States added to expectations for Washington to reach
a deal on new stimulus to counter the blow from the COVID-19
Among gainers on the Australian benchmark index, blue-chip
financial firms were the biggest boost, advancing 1.4%
in their second straight session of gains.
Top lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose
1.2%, while Westpac Banking Corp was up 1.9%.
Healthcare stocks added up to 1.7%, with
heavyweights CSL Ltd and ASX-listed shares of Resmed
Inc gaining 2.5% and 1.7%, respectively.
Among losers, gold stocks declined the most, down
1.6%, as bullion prices slumped more than 1.5% overnight on the
Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources
lost 1.2% and 1.5%, respectively.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index climbed as much as 1% to 12,020.6, in its best
intraday percentage rise in about two weeks.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp and a2 Milk Co
were among the top gainers, adding 1.9% and 2.7%,
Skycity Entertainment was the top gainer on the
index, rising as much as 3.2% to its highest since July 30,
after the casino operator posted a 46.3% rise in full-year net
profit from continuing operations.
(Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by