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Australia: Shares snap four-day rally as virus outbreaks weigh

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares closed a muted session lower on Friday, as losses in the prominent gold sector outweighed gains in financials, while investors held off big bets as major cities across the world reported virus outbreaks and shutdowns.

The resurgence of the virus globally comes just as travel restrictions are gradually being eased, and it is likely to dampen prospects of a broader reopening that would boost the recovery underway in many economies.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index snapped a four-session winning streak to end 0.12 per cent lower at 6,539.2 points. For the week, it added 2.1 per cent.

"Without knowing how some of the macro events might play out, there's really nothing to give a lead in the market," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Smoling also pointed at Wall Street's subdued trading session on Thursday, and disappointment over US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin halting some of the Federal Reserve's pandemic emergency lending programmes - which sent US futures lower.

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In other news, authorities said that South Australia's drastic six-day coronavirus lockdown was triggered by a "lie", and that restrictions would be relaxed much earlier than previously planned.

The central bank raised concerns over the Australian stock exchange's trading systems, after nearly an entire session had to be abandoned earlier this week due to a software glitch, hitting investor sentiment further.

Gold stocks extended losses to a fourth day and have lost 6 per cent over the week, as vaccine optimism kept demand for the safe-haven commodity muted. Index heavyweight Newcrest Mining , down 0.5 per cent, was one of the top drags.

Conversely, financials closed higher for a fifth trading session, and logged weekly gains of over 6 per cent, stoked by hopes of economic recovery on the back of an incoming vaccine.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.9 per cent lower at 12,441.81, brought down by shares of Oceania Healthcare and Genesis Energy each losing around 3 per cent.

REUTERS

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