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Australia: Shares end flat as record retail sales spur recovery

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Australian shares ended unchanged on Wednesday, rebounding from a 2.3 per cent drop earlier in the session, as better-than-expected retail sales data helped counter losses in mining and energy stocks.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended unchanged on Wednesday, rebounding from a 2.3 per cent drop earlier in the session, as better-than-expected retail sales data helped counter losses in mining and energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.1 points lower at 5,221.20.

Australian retail sales saw a record jump in March due to virus-led panic buying, potentially staving off a contraction across the economy in the first quarter.

While the data provided a much-needed boost to the market, sales are likely to drop in April due to the enforcement of strict social distancing rules.

"Despite the surge, we continue to expect broader consumption to fall sharply in (the first half of 2020)," analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a note.

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Australia's largest supermarket operator Woolworths Group gained 0.8 per cent, while retail chain operator Coles Group rose 1.1 per cent.

Energy stocks recovered from a steep early sell-off but still ended 1.1 per cent lower as the rout in oil prices continued and oversupply fears sent Brent crude to its lowest levels since 1999.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 1.1 per cent or 118.20 points to finish the session at 10,417.67, hurt by healthcare and utilities. 

REUTERS

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