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Australia: Shares end flat after volatile trade as US vote too close to call

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended little changed on Wednesday after sliding over 1 per cent in the session, as voting projections in the US presidential election showed a close race between Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.1 per cent or 4.3 points to 6,062.10, after gaining 1.9 per cent in the previous session.

Shares somewhat tracked a rebound in US stock futures, which became positive after having swung wildly earlier in the day as votes were being counted, the final outcome of which could still take days to determine.

Brad Smoling, managing director of Smoling Stockbroking, said he would hold off making big bets for sometime since this election could be contested leading to a drawn out battle, which may lead to a sharp sell-off in US equities, and in Australia.

In the run up to the elections, Mr Biden had led consistently in polls, but the odds were scaled back after Mr Trump held on to a slim lead in the battleground state of Florida and seemed to be doing better than expected in other key regions.

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Mr Biden's "clean sweep" was expected to bring in a much-needed coronavirus relief bill for the pandemic-ravaged economy within the first days of his administration.

In Australia, which has doubled down on fossil fuels and hosts the world's top mining companies, results are awaited to see what the outcome would mean for energy transition globally as Mr Biden plans to push for climate reforms.

The metals and mining index declined 1.4 per cent, with the world's fourth biggest iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group declining 4.3 per cent, leading losses.

Larger rivals Rio Tinto and BHP Group slumped 1 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks slid 1 per cent to also drag the benchmark.

Shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking fell as much as 2.8 per cent each after announcing cuts to their home loans interest rates following the central bank's move to trim cash rate to a record low on Tuesday.

Tech stocks tracked their Wall Street counterparts higher, with buy-now-pay-later bellwether Afterpay, that has a significant exposure to the US market, closing up 1.6 per cent.

Healthcare index firmed slightly, boosted by a 10 per cent jump in disinfectant device maker Nanosonics on strong trading update.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.6 per cent or 69.62 points to 12,199.93, led by real estate and healthcare firms.

REUTERS

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