Australian shares hit 1-month high after Fed hike, tech stocks shine



March 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares jumped to a one-month high on Thursday, led by technology and mining stocks, as global markets advanced after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates as expected.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO advanced as much as 1.7% to 7,296.80, hitting its highest since Feb. 17, and extending gains after Wednesday's 1.1% jump.

The Fed announced a quarter percentage point increase in the overnight federal funds rate, lifting that key benchmark from its near-zero level, and laid out an aggressive plan for further increases to combat inflation.

Hawkish shifts by the central banks in China and Europe, and now the Fed, add to the risk of an earlier start to a Reserve Bank of Australia lift-off well before its implied 2023 central scenario, RBC analysts said in a note.

In Australia, tech stocks .AXIJ surged as much as 5.8%, tracking their U.S. peers. Block Inc's Australian shares SQ2.AX jumped 10.8% and WiseTech Global WTC.AX added 6.2%.

Miners .AXMM advanced nearly 2% on robust iron ore prices, with heavyweights BHP Group BHP.AX , Fortescue Metals FMG.AX and Rio Tinto RIO.AX up between 1.3% and 4.3%.

Financials .AXFJ leapt 1.6%, with the 'big four banks' rising between 0.6% and 1.5%, while healthcare stocks .AXHJ climbed 0.71%, with CSL CSL.AX up 0.6%.

Bullion prices were steady, helping gold miners .AXGD rise nearly 1%. Newcrest Mining NCM.AX , the country's largest gold miner, was almost flat.

Energy stocks .AXEJ slipped 0.2%, weighed down by a dip in oil prices. Heavyweights Woodside Petroleum WPL.AX and Santos STO.AX dropped nearly 1% each.

In other news, Australian employment sped past expectations in February as activity recovered surprisingly quickly from an Omicron outbreak, driving unemployment down to lows not seen since 2008 and adding to pressure for an early rate hike.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 gained 1.5% to 12,050.95 after data showed gross domestic product rose 3% in the fourth quarter.


Reporting by Navya Mittal in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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