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Australia: Shares close lower as spiralling pandemic stokes recovery fears

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Australian shares on Thursday closed at their lowest level in more than three weeks as surging cases of Covid-19 around the world stoked fears of a difficult global economic recovery.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares on Thursday closed at their lowest level in more than three weeks as surging cases of Covid-19 around the world stoked fears of a difficult global economic recovery.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.6 per cent lower at 5,960.30, its lowest since Oct 5, with gold and energy stocks leading the declines.

Twelve US states set records for hospitalised Covid-19 patients, while Germany and France announced plans to shut large swathes of public life for a month as the pandemic spread across Europe.

"At the moment, it's pretty clear that Europe is going into lockdown. So, there is definitely a downgrade cycle coming out of Europe... and post-election, I assume parts of the United States will be going into restrictions as well," said Mathan Somasundaram, chief executive of Deep Data Analytics.

Denting sentiment further were jitters over US election's outcome and fading hopes of a stimulus deal before the polls.

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"The market keeps being negative till we see some clarity," Mr Somasundaram said.

The Australian energy index declined 2.9 per cent on weaker oil prices. Santos fell 5 per cent, while Woodside Petroleum lost 2 per cent.

Gold stocks shed 4.2 per cent, with Westgold Resources losing 8.9 per cent and OceanaGold sliding 5.5 per cent.

The broader mining index fell 2.2 per cent. BHP Group and Rio Tinto declined 2.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent each.

Orocobre tumbled 3.8 per cent after the lithium producer flagged a 24 per cent fall in quarterly production from its flagship Olaroz mine in Argentina.

Australian tech firms fell 2 per cent, tracking tech stocks on Wall Street overnight. Afterpay fell 3.3 per cent, while WiseTech Global lost 1.7 per cent.

The heavyweight financial index closed 1.5 per cent lower, with all the "Big Four" banks ending in the negative territory.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5 per cent lower at 12,201.80.

Top losers were Oceania Healthcare, losing 3.6 per cent, and Air New Zealand that fell 3.4 per cent.

REUTERS

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