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Australia: Gold stocks, central bank comments give shares modest lift
[BENGALURU] Australian shares eked out modest gains on Monday as gold stocks advanced on heightened Sino-US tensions and positive comments from a central bank official assuaged fears about the economic fallout from a second wave of coronavirus infections.
A senior Reserve Bank of Australia official said it was ready to buy government bonds to support the country's virus-hit economy if market conditions worsen considerably.
Australia recorded its biggest spike in Covid-19 deaths on Sunday as a second wave of infection sweeps across Victoria, the country's most populous state next to New South Wales.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.2 per cent at 6,037.4, as of 1.05am GMT. The benchmark closed 1.16 per cent lower on Friday.
However, broader sentiment was subdued as a diplomatic tussle between the two largest economies heated up after Beijing ordered the United States to shut its consulate in Chengdu late last week. The move came as a tit-for-tat response to Washington's closure of China's Houston consulate.
Gold stocks registered gains as bullion prices were set to hit a record high on solid safe-haven demand amid rising Sino-US tensions, helping the metals and mining sub-index trade in positive territory.
Australia-listed shares of AngloGold Ashanti climbed as much as 8.4 per cent, while Newcrest Mining added 2.8 per cent.
Shares of Lynas surged 12 per cent after the rare earths miner said it signed a contract with the US Department of Defense to start initial design work on a separation facility in Texas.
Woodside Petroleum and Santos led declines in the energy index, which shed 1.5 per cent.
Financials edged 0.4 per cent lower, with Insurance Australia Group extending losses from last week after flagging a 70 per cent plunge in cash earnings for 2020.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched 0.1 per cent lower to 11,620.79.
Local shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slid 0.6 per cent, while a2 Milk fell 1.1 per cent.