* Gold stocks set for best session in two weeks
* Westpac Banking Corp biggest percentage laggard on the
* New Zealand benchmark at its highest in nearly six months
Aug 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares gained on Tuesday after
the country's second most populous state reported its lowest
daily rise in new COVID-19 infections in a month.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.4% to 6,096.8 points by
0042 GMT, from a 0.8% drop in the last session.
Victoria recorded 17 coronavirus deaths in the last 24
hours, down from 25 a day earlier, stoking hopes that a second
wave of infection in the state is easing.
Further boosting the morale, Australia's biggest biotech
company CSL, said it was in talks with AstraZeneca
to determine if the potential COVID-19 vaccine being
developed by the British drugmaker could be manufactured
Leading the rally, gold stocks jumped over 3%,
extending gains into the fourth session as the yellow metal
touched its highest in nearly a week.
Evolution Mining climbed to its highest since July
23 as the gold miner resumed operations at its Red Lake Gold
Mine in Canada which were temporarily suspended on Aug. 12
following a nearby forest fire.
The tech sub-index added 1.6%, taking leads from an
overnight strong rally on Wall Street.
Shares of sub-index heavyweights, Afterpay and Xero
surged over 2.5% each.
Mining stocks gained 1.5% as the Dalian benchmark
contract extended gains into a third session on upbeat demand
prospects in top steel producer China.
BHP Group eked out gains of nearly 0.1% even as the
world's largest listed miner reported a lower-than-expected
annual profit and also warned of a slowing economic growth
Among the losers, Financials dropped 1.3% to mark
their worst session in more than a week.
The country's second biggest lender, Westpac Banking Corp
fell 3.7% as it scrapped interim dividend citing
ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Supported by healthcare and real-estate stocks, the New
Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, advanced 1.4% to
its highest since Feb. 24.
Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp climbed 6% to a
record high, while Argosy Property jumped over 4%.
(Reporting by Deepali Saxena; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)