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Australia: Shares post weekly drop as virus worries deepen

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Australian shares slipped on Friday and limped to a weekly loss as fresh restrictions to contain a spike in Covid-19 cases dampened hopes of a quick economic recovery.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Friday and limped to a weekly loss as fresh restrictions to contain a spike in Covid-19 cases dampened hopes of a quick economic recovery.

The country halved the number of citizens allowed to return home from overseas each week as Victoria, its second-largest state, reported a record single-day jump of 288 new cases.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.61 per cent to 5,919.2, erasing the previous session's gains. For the week, it declined 2.3 per cent in its biggest drop since the week ended June 12.

"Clearly there is a concern surrounding the subsequent impact on economic policy the virus is going to have here," said IG Markets analyst Kyle Rodda.

"The Covid-19 crisis has been the primary driver of activity this week," said Mr Rodda, adding that Friday's numbers showed the pandemic was far from being under control in Victoria.

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Among sectors, the energy subindex dropped about 2 per cent as oil prices were hurt by fears that renewed lockdowns would suppress fuel demand.

Explorer Woodside Petroleum fell more than 2.3 per cent and Papua Guinea-focused Oil Search lost 4.2 per cent.

Gold stocks slipped 1.7 per cent with Newcrest Mining, the country's largest gold-focused listed company, shedding nearly 2 per cent.

Mining stocks declined about 1 per cent, with Rio Tinto down 0.7 per cent.

Financials also eased, with three of the "big four" banks losing over 1 per cent each.

The number of issues on the Australian Securities Exchange that advanced were 644 while 947 declined.

Chorus was the biggest percentage loser on the Australian benchmark after the telecom infrastructure provider reported a drop in fixed line connections for the fourth quarter.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index settled 0.4 per cent lower, hurt by losses in utility stocks including Meridian Energy. The index fell 1.4 per cent for the week.

REUTERS

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