* Energy stocks end at 10-month high, near pre-pandemic
* Gold stocks snap five sessions of losses on firmer bullion
* NZ logs third straight session in the red
Jan 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares settled higher on
Wednesday as upbeat data pointed towards improving employment
figures on the horizon, with energy stocks leading the charge on
an upswing in oil prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.1% at 6,686.6 at the
close of trade, with energy stocks being the stand-out
performers after leaping 4.3%.
Job vacancies in the country surged 23.4% to hit an all-time
high in the November quarter, data showed, signalling the
likelihood for stronger employment growth in the offing.
"We've seen a bit of a pick-up in the job vacancies numbers,
so the economy is starting to come back to some level of
normal," said Steven Daghlian, analyst at CommSec.
"There are a lot of moving parts for a recovery, but one of
them is going to be that the vaccine proves effective."
Some Australian doctors raised concerns over the
effectiveness of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in
generating herd immunity, calling for a pause in its rollout.
Expectations of speedy distribution of vaccines have been a
major driver in global markets, along with hopes that U.S.
President-elect Joe Biden's administration will provide more
fiscal support to help spur growth in the world's largest
Woodside Petroleum jumped 5.5% and Oil Search
added 6.2% to lead gains in the energy sub-index
, which ended at a 10-month high as oil prices rose more
than 1% after data showed a bigger-than-expected drop in
Miners and gold stocks also raked in hefty
gains as Chinese steel futures and safe-haven bullion firmed.
BHP Group and Newcrest Mining climbed 0.5% and
However, a third straight session of losses for healthcare
and tech stocks weighed on the benchmark and
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished
0.5% lower at 13,120.28, with utilities and industrials being
the biggest drags.
(Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry