Australian shares closed higher on Tuesday, led by miners, as rumours swirled that recent protests in several Chinese cities might prompt an earlier easing of strict COVID-19 restrictions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.3% higher at 7,253.3, in line with a rally in broader global markets following reports that Chinese health officials would hold a news conference later in the day to discuss coronavirus control measures.

"The risks are floating to the downside as China's situation is a huge hindrance on the materials sector, which is of course Australia's main exports, affecting the share price of top Aussie miners," said Azeenm Sheriff, a CMC Markets analyst.

Miners advanced 1.9% and were among the top gainers on the Australian benchmark index, as iron ore futures rallied after regulators in top steel producer China broadened equity financing channels for developers.

Sector majors BHP Group and Fortescue jumped more than 2% each.

Energy stocks edged higher, with Beach Energy adding 1.3%, while Santos climbed 0.6%.

Gold stocks closed 0.3% lower on weak bullion prices. Newcrest Mining, the country's largest gold miner, slipped 0.1%.

In other news, domestic buy-now-pay-later firms face fresh hurdles following a proposal to regulate the sector with the same law that covers credit card and mortgage providers and bans unsolicited credit-limit increases and requires background checks for most consumer lending. In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.7% higher at 11395.35. (Reporting By Navya Mittal in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)