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Australia: Shares slip as investors shun risk on bleak US jobs data

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Australia shares on Thursday snapped a three-session winning streak, dragged lower by heavyweight financials, as a surprise uptick in US jobless claims weighed on sentiment and cut short vaccine-led optimism in global equities.

[BENGALURU] Australia shares on Thursday snapped a three-session winning streak, dragged lower by heavyweight financials, as a surprise uptick in US jobless claims weighed on sentiment and cut short vaccine-led optimism in global equities.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged 0.7 per cent lower to finish the session at 6636.4.

Initial jobless claims in the United States rose for a second consecutive week, suggesting that a surge in Covid-19 count and business restrictions were lifting layoffs and undermining the labour market recovery.

"Some bad data last night in the US regarding employment seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of the ongoing announcements from different companies regarding the virus," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

"We're starting to see, maybe some of the reality creep into the market, being that the economic data is starting to overcome the positive announcements regarding vaccines," Mr Smoling said.

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Heavyweight financials recorded their worst session in two weeks with the so-called "Big Four" banks falling between 1.3-2.4 per cent. Energy stocks also fell with Worley and Whitehaven Coal dropping as much as 7 per cent and 4.8 per cent, respectively.

Bucking the trend, gold stocks advanced as weak US jobs data and surging Covid-19 cases cast fears of a swift economic recovery, bolstering bullion's safe-haven appeal.

Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources gained 1.8 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

Taking leads from the pandemic-resilient tech-heavy Nasdaq, tech stocks in Australia added nearly 1 per cent, with buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay clocking gains of more than 2 per cent.

Shares of Bega Cheese were on a trading halt as the country's biggest cheese maker planned to acquire the Australian dairy arm of Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings.

Markets, however, showed scant reaction to Telstra, the country's biggest telecom firm, agreeing to pay a penalty for selling indigenous consumers post-paid mobile products they could not afford.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.5 per cent lower, with electronic payments platform Pushpay Holdings being the top drag in the index.

REUTERS

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