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Australia: Shares pare gains on second virus wave concerns

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Australian shares pared sharp early gains to settle a touch higher on Friday as worries about an uptick in coronavirus cases in Beijing and several US states offset optimism stemming from a record rise in domestic retail sales.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares pared sharp early gains to settle a touch higher on Friday as worries about an uptick in coronavirus cases in Beijing and several US states offset optimism stemming from a record rise in domestic retail sales.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.1 per cent at 5,942.6 points, having gained as much as 1.2 per cent earlier. The benchmark fell 0.9 per cent on Thursday.

The country's retail sales surged a record 16.3 per cent in May as broader easing of coronavirus lockdowns enabled a recovery from an historic plunge in April.

Grocery chain Coles Group closed up 1.4 per cent at its highest since March 30, while Wesfarmers also gained 1.4 per cent.

"ANZ-observed data show that June expenditure is likely to be similar to late May, and may represent the start of a stabilisation of retail expenditure after some very turbulent months," ANZ said in a note.

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Risk sentiment globally, however, was weighed down by the rising numbers of new coronavirus infections in China, Australia's largest trading partner, and other parts of the world.

US President Donald Trump's renewed threats to cut ties with China also dampened investor confidence.

Material stocks shed 1.2 per cent to close at their lowest level since May 27. Shares of heavyweight miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost 1.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, energy stocks rose as much as 1.9 per cent to an over one-week high, supported by firmer oil prices.

The technology sector advanced 1.84 per cent, led by WiseTech Global, up 7.8 per cent, followed by Altium, which gained 6.6 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent to finish the session at 11,254.74.

Port of Tauranga and SKY Network Television jumped 9.92 per cent and 6.54 per cent, respectively, and were the top percentage gainers on the index.

REUTERS

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