Australian shares hit over 9-month closing high on gold, tech boost

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Technology stocks hit over 4-month high

RBA policy decision due on Tuesday

NZ50 closes at highest since March 22

Updates to close

By John Biju

Feb 2 (Reuters) -Australian shares rose to a more than nine-month closing high on Thursday, helped by gains in gold and tech stocks, after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell's comment raised hopes that the U.S. central bank would soon end its interest rate-hike spree.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO settled 0.13% higher at 7,511.60, its highest close since April 21.

The Fed delivered an expected 25 basis-point rate increase after a year of larger hikes and said it had turned a key corner in the fight against inflation. Markets saw Powell's comments on the "disinflationary" process being underway as dovish.

Investors are now awaiting policy decisions from the Bank of England and the European Central Bank later in the day and from the Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday.

The Australian central bank is widely expected to deliver a fourth consecutive quarter-point rate hike next week.

Nick Twidale, chief executive officer of APAC at FP Markets, expects the RBA to be "relatively hawkish", considering weaker retail sales data and relatively strong inflation.

Analysts at Citi believe risks are tilted to the hawkish side with a "non-trivial likelihood of a 50 basis-point increase", considering inflation remains above the central bank's target. They now expect two more 25-bp rate hikes after February to bring down inflation.

Gold stocks .AXGD jumped 4.2%, with sector major Newcrest Mining NCM.AX and Northern Star Resources NST.AX gaining 3.7% and 4.6%, respectively.

Tech stocks .AXIJ rose 3.2%, hitting their highest since September 2022. Heavyweights Xero Ltd XRO.AX and ASX-listed shares of Block Inc SQ2.AX gained 7.5% and 5.9%, respectively.

Miners .AXMM slipped 0.4%, with Rio Tinto RIO.AX down 2.3%. Banks .AXFJ declined 0.4%, with the "big four" banks down between 0.4% and 0.7%.

Energy stocks .AXEJ fell 0.9%, with Santos STO.AX and Woodside Energy WDS.AX losing 1.6% and 1.0%, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.5% to 12,152.16, its highest close since March 22.

Reporting by John Biju in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

For more information on DIARIES & DATA: U.S. earnings diary RESF/US Wall Street Week Ahead .N/O Global Economy Week Ahead DATA/ ................................................................ For latest top breaking news across all markets NEWS1

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