Australian shares rose on Thursday as easing border restrictions with New Zealand boosted sentiment around travel-related firms, while gold stocks gained on sustained demand for the yellow metal amid the war in Ukraine and rising inflationary pressures.
The S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.6% higher at 7,523.4, posting its fourth weekly gain in five. The benchmark marked its lowest trading volume so far this year, ahead of a long weekend due to Good Friday and Easter Monday holidays.
Most travel-related stocks gained with Qantas Airways , the nation's biggest carrier, and Webjet Ltd firming 7.1% and 7.5%, respectively. Border restrictions between Australia and New Zealand eased for the first time since July 2021 on Wednesday.
Kunal Sawhney, chief executive officer of Kalkine Group, also attributed the strength in travel shares to a promising update from U.S.-based Delta Airlines, which forecast returning to profit in the current quarter due to booming travel demand.
Gold stocks led the gains on the benchmark, firming about 2.7% to hit the highest since Jan 7, 2021, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and inflationary pressures boosted demand for the safe-haven metal.
Index heavyweights Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources rose 1.8% and 4.2%, respectively.
Technology stocks tracked the Nasdaq to close about 1.3% higher. Xero Ltd and Computershare Ltd gained 2% and 1.1%, respectively.
Telecom firm Uniti hit a record high and closed 2.9% higher after it agreed to a A$3.62 billion ($2.70 billion) takeover offer from a consortium comprising Canada's Brookfield Asset Management and fund manager Morrison & Co.
Financials were the only laggards, losing about 0.3%, after Bank of Queensland said its first-half net interest margin was hit by competition for new housing loans.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 rose about 0.1% to 11,891.6. (Reporting by Archishma Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)