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Australia: Shares halt 5-session winning run as investors lock in gains


[BENGALURU] Australian shares snapped their record-breaking run over five sessions on Tuesday as investors booked profits, while increasing concerns over a new strain of coronavirus in China dragged down travel and tourism-related stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished about 0.2 per cent lower at 7,066.30, after gaining more than 2.5 per cent over the past five sessions.

The heavyweight Financials closed down 0.3 per cent, while the Energy and Technology sub-indices lost 0.8 per cent and 1.27 per cent, respectively.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia shed 0.5 per cent, while the entire constituents of the energy index including top-listed oil & gas firm Woodside Petroleum finished in the red.

"Some of the selling we are seeing here is investors locking in gains ahead of what might be a downdraft," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Meanwhile, travel and tourism stocks came under pressure after China confirmed person-to-person spread of a new coronavirus and reported a fourth death related to the outbreak in central city of Wuhan.

Australia will begin screening passengers arriving from Wuhan, although the authorities warn that an outbreak would be hard to prevent.

"If this particular virus spreads further and there are more cases reported in the Asia-Pacific area, a more lasting impact on local travel, airlines and related stocks cannot be discounted," said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

As per data released by Australian Bureau of Statistics last week, China is Australia's top tourism source, accounting for over 1.4 million visitors in 2018-19.

Airliner Qantas Airways ended the session 1.7 per cent lower and Sydney Airport Holdings lost 3 per cent, while Flight Centre Travel Group and Corporate Travel Management Ltd fell about 3 per cent and 4.6 per cent, respectively.

Top miner BHP Group finished marginally down after it reported an 11 per cent drop in New South Wales thermal coal output in the first half due to Australian bushfires but maintained its full-year forecast. The miner posted a 3 per cent rise in iron ore production.

The heavyweight Metals and Mining index, however, finished slightly up, thanks to gold stocks which gained on safe-haven play.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5 per cent higher at 11,805.15, with SKY Network Television Ltd and Meridian Energy Ltd gaining about 3 per cent each.