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Australia: Shares snap two sessions of gains as financials drop

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Australian shares ended lower in thin trade on Wednesday as investors took profits after two sessions of sharp gains, with banking stocks dominating the losses.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended lower in thin trade on Wednesday as investors took profits after two sessions of sharp gains, with banking stocks dominating the losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.42 per cent lower at 5,384.6 points, having gained more than 3 per cent in the past two sessions as the country eased coronavirus restrictions.

Dragging the benchmark on Wednesday, the financials sector fell 1.1 per cent as the country's "Big Four" banks lost between 0.8 per cent and 2.4 per cent.

Even though Australia's big banks have warned of credit losses of more than US$10.96 billion from the country's first recession in three decades, analysts have estimated the bill could be even higher - perhaps more than double.

Earlier in the day, data showed that panic buying drove a record jump in Australian retail sales in March, although any economic windfall was curtailed as much of the surge came in prices rather than in the overall volume of goods.

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"The numbers available to the market now seem out of date, while further data from April will show us the full extent of the virus's damage", said Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcus Today Financial.

Retail sales figures for April are expected to dive as coronavirus-induced restrictions and the closure of many businesses hammered spending.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 846 while 683 declined as a 1.2-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 per cent on the back of gains in healthcare stocks to finish the session at 10,572.84 points. 

REUTERS

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