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Australia: Shares hit 2-week low as virus surge weighs
[SYDNEY] Australian shares kicked off the week on a lacklustre note to close 1.5 per cent lower on Monday, with financials and energy stocks leading the declines, as a global upsurge in Covid-19 infections sent traders towards a risk-off mode.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 2.2 per cent earlier in the session, before recouping much of their early losses to end down 1.5 per cent at 5,815.0, its lowest close since June 15.
Investors were unnerved as the death toll from Covid-19 surpassed half a million people on Sunday, while Australia reported its biggest daily rise in new infections in more than two months.
"We're still in this quite horrible wait-and-watch mode and I think there's real concern with the milestones in number of cases and deaths escalating in certain parts of the world," said Nick Twidale, general manager at IC Markets.
"We're not seeing crashes, the market is prepared for the dips, but if we do see acceleration in the pandemic then I think we are in for a quite tough week."
Weighing the most on the benchmark was the 1.6 per cent drop in financial stocks as the "Big Four" banks lost between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 1.1 per cent to 11,252.54 as utility and healthcare stocks gained.