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Australia: Shares inch lower on virus, US stimulus worries

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Australian shares edged lower on Wednesday due to waning prospects of a US stimulus deal and rising global cases of the novel coronavirus, although gains in local healthcare and tech stocks limited the benchmark's losses.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Wednesday due to waning prospects of a US stimulus deal and rising global cases of the novel coronavirus, although gains in local healthcare and tech stocks limited the benchmark's losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.1 per cent to 6,047.6 by 0017 GMT, weighed down by financials and energy sub-indexes. The benchmark lost 1.7 per cent on Tuesday.

Overnight, Wall Street closed lower after US President Donald Trump acknowledged the much-needed Covid-19 stimulus, the cause of intense market volatility these past few weeks, would likely come after the Nov 3 election,

Denting sentiment further, global cases of Covid-19 crossed 43.61 million, with the death toll at 1,160,278, a Reuters tally showed.

In the United States, the disease has killed more than 225,000 and infected more than 8.7 million people.

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Australia's heavyweight financial sub-index index fell 1 per cent to lead losses and hit a two-week low. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group's shares were the biggest drag.

Shares of the country's third largest lender slid 2.7 per cent on revealing a US$376 million hit to second-half earnings.

The other three of the "Big Four" banks traded 1.4 per cent to 1.7 per cent lower.

The ASX 200 Energy index fell 1.5 per cent. Electricity retailer Origin Energy led the decline with its 2.6 per cent fall, and fuel refiner Ampol dropped 2.3 per cent.

The healthcare and tech indexes firmed 1.2 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively, to counter some of the losses on the benchmark.

Shares of medical device maker Resmed Inc jumped 4.3 per cent to power healthcare stocks a day before the US-based company's quarterly results where it's expected to record a jump in revenue.

Meanwhile, buy-now-pay-later favourite Afterpay's stellar first-quarter results boosted its stock price by nearly 5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark gained 0.4 per cent or 57.9 points to 12,309.8.

Gains were driven by healthcare firms Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Corp and Oceania Healthcare, advancing 4.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS

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