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Australia: Shares inch lower on unemployment, virus worries; New Zealand recovers

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Australian shares eased on Friday as a rise in the country's jobless rate and surging coronavirus cases in Victoria weighed on sentiment, while Rio Tinto scaled a near six-month high after reporting strong quarterly iron ore shipments.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares eased on Friday as a rise in the country's jobless rate and surging coronavirus cases in Victoria weighed on sentiment, while Rio Tinto scaled a near six-month high after reporting strong quarterly iron ore shipments.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1 per cent to 6,003.6 by 0111 GMT, but was set to post a weekly gain of 1.5 per cent.

Australia's jobless rate hit a 22-year high of 7.4 per cent even though employment surged by a record last month, as the jump in jobs growth was not enough to offset the increase in the number of people who went looking for work.

Weighing on investor sentiment further, 327 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Thursday, a surge that was almost entirely due to the state of Victoria.

Among sectors, the metals and mining sub-index gained up to 1 per cent, and was on track for its best week since the week ended May 22.

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Rio Tinto, the world's largest iron ore miner, climbed 2.4 per cent to its highest since January after its second-quarter iron ore shipments beat consensus estimates.

The gold sub index slid 0.8 per cent and was set to snap three straight weekly gains. The top loser was De Grey Mining, down 4.4 per cent, while Alacer Gold Corp lost 3.8 per cent.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 556 while 437 declined as a 1.3-to-1 ratio favoured advancers. The most heavily traded shares by volume were Alumina, Fortescue Metals Group and South32.

Across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index recovered from early losses to trade 0.7 per cent higher by 1258 GMT.

A survey showed manufacturing activity moved back to expansionary territory in June after three months of contraction.

Dairy giant Fonterra raised the lower end of its farmgate milk price guidance range as demand increased in China, its top market.

REUTERS

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