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Australia, New Zealand: Shares edge lower on rising US virus cases, lockdowns woes

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Australian shares edged lower on Friday as investors took stock of surging coronavirus cases and chances of fresh restrictions in the United States, although a report that US lawmakers may restart talks on economic stimulus helped lift sentiment.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Friday as investors took stock of surging coronavirus cases and chances of fresh restrictions in the United States, although a report that US lawmakers may restart talks on economic stimulus helped lift sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent or 8.8 points to 6,538.30 by 2342 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

Asian markets awaited details on the stimulus talks, hoping for a fresh boost to the world's largest economy whose nascent recovery has recently shown signs of slowing, putting pressure on prospects for all its major trading partners.

The energy and financial sub-indexes fell around 0.5 per cent each, while mining stocks also pulled back.

Shares of insurance companies edged lower in the wake of a state court ruling that pandemic exclusions should not be used to reject claims from businesses affected by the coronavirus, increasing their potential payout liabilities.

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QBE Insurance Group and Suncorp Group dropped, while Insurance Australia Group's shares remained on a trading halt.

IAG sought to raise A$750 million in new equity to help offset a drop of over A$950 million in its regulatory capital due to the recognition of the business interruption claims.

Regis Healthcare, while not a part of the ASX200, jumped 23 per cent after top shareholder and investment firm Washington H Soul Pattinson and Co offered to buy the struggling aged-care home operator for A$556.4 million.

Regis's rejection of the offer on Friday sent shares of the prospective buyer down nearly 4 per cent, putting it on track for its biggest drop since May 1.

Bucking the trend, regenerative medicine company Mesoblast jumped 21 per cent after it announced a collaboration deal with Swedish drug maker Novartis to manufacture and commercialise its lead drug candidate.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 per cent to 12,497.56, with Ryman Healthcare the biggest loser on the index after posting a drop in half-year earnings on rising costs.

REUTERS

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