New Zealand shares outperformed the rest of Asia as stock markets across the globe followed Wall Street higher after US presidential hopeful Joe Biden took the lead in the race to become the Democratic Party's nominee.

The S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 223.11 points, or 2 per cent, to 11,640.89. Within the index, 37 stocks rose, eight fell, and five were unchanged. Turnover was $256.9 million.

Investors shook off some of their recent concerns about the covid-19 outbreak, taking heart from the prospect of a more palatable US presidential contender.

Former US Vice President Joe Biden outperformed rival Bernie Sanders – who has championed a healthcare policy that would essentially abolish private health insurance – in a key vote in the race to become the Democratic presidential candidate. The winner of the Democratic primary will ultimately face incumbent President Donald Trump in the November election.

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Peter McIntyre, an investment adviser at Craigs Investment Partners, said Biden was seen to be the more market-friendly candidate and benchmark US indices all closed at least 3 per cent higher overnight.

Asian equity markets followed suit. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.2 per cent, Shanghai's SSEC increased 1.4 per cent and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.1 per cent.

Stuart Williams, head of equities at Nikko AM, said that while Kiwi markets pay attention to strong international leads, he was surprised by the size of the gain.

"There seems to be an incredibly strong move against a challenging medium-term impact from coronavirus," he said.

"So, when you look and see companies that are directly affected by the virus up reasonably strongly it doesn't make a lot of sense. That's a market rally looking for a reason to exist rather than the other way around."

Sky Network Television led the market higher, rising 9.8 per cent to 56 cents with 157,000 shares trading hands – well below the 90-day average of 620,000.

Goodman Property Trust rose 8.9 per cent to $2.49 on an above average volume of 4.7 million shares.

The company was added to the FTSE EPRA/Nareit Global Real Estate Index which is an index that tracks the performance of listed real estate companies in both developed and emerging countries worldwide.

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Property for Industry rose 2.5 per cent to $2.51, Kiwi Property Group increased 1.7 per cent to $1.47 and Precinct Properties New Zealand increased 1.6 per cent to $1.93.

Retirement village stocks also performed strongly. Arvida Group increased 5.5 per cent to $1.74, Ryman Healthcare rose 5.5 per cent to $15.73 and Summerset Group climbed 3.8 per cent to $8.

Williams said low interest rates were increasing valuation on equities that can act as a proxy for the property market. Low returns from term deposits and bonds have encouraged investors to find more attractive assets.

Air New Zealand rose 3.1 per cent to $2.18 with 2.4 million shares traded and Auckland International Airport increased 2.6 per cent to $7.94, with 7.1 million shares changing hands.

"Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport are probably the two most directly affected stocks we have; so, it is surprising to see them up," Williams said.

Tourism Holdings also gained, increasing 2.6 per cent to $7.94.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare fell 0.8 per cent to $26.39, despite the strong lead from healthcare stocks in the United States.

Kathmandu Holdings fell 2.4 per cent to $2.89, posting the biggest loss of the day.