* "Big Four" banks boost financial sub-index
* Woodside, Santos advance ahead of qtrly production on
* Healthcare stocks mark worst session since Oct.2
Oct 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed higher on
Wednesday, supported by gains in financial and energy stocks, on
hopes that the United States was nearing a deal on a stimulus
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.1% higher at 6,191.80
following Tuesday's 0.7% slide.
Wall Street gained overnight as U.S. House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi expressed hopes of clearing the coronavirus relief
package this week, bringing some stability to markets amid
heightened uncertainty ahead of the presidential election.
"At the moment where we are being pushed and shoved around
by the hopes for U.S. stimulus... hopes yet again that they are
going to get something before the election," said Henry
Jennings, a senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcustoday.
Adding to the upbeat mood, AstraZeneca Plc's
COVID-19 vaccine trial in the United States was expected to
resume as early as this week, a Reuters report said.
Australia's financial sub-index rose about 1%,
boosted by gains in the "Big Four" banks.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, National
Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
and Westpac Banking Corp rose between 0.8% and 1.6%.
"If we see U.S. futures doing well, our market will tend to
follow and the banks being such a big part of our index, that's
one of the places that people put their money," Jennings said.
U.S. stock futures were up 0.71%.
The energy sector rose 1.3% boosted by Woodside
Petroleum and Santos, which gained about 2%
each, ahead of their quarterly production numbers on Thursday.
On the downside, healthcare stocks closed down 1.1%
and marked its worst session since Oct. 2. Industry behemoth CSL
slid 1.3%, while Mesoblast declined 4.4%.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped
0.2% to finish the session at 12,432.61, with losses led by
Scales Corporation Ltd and Goodman Property Trust
, which fell about 2.8% each.
(Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren