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Australia: Shares steady after sharp losses, gold stocks shine

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Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as gains in gold and energy stocks offset losses in most other sectors after authorities warned of a hit to economic growth.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as gains in gold and energy stocks offset losses in most other sectors after authorities warned of a hit to economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.04 per cent to 6,072.7 by 1249 GMT after Wednesday's 1.3 per cent drop.

Australia recorded 501 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, its highest since the epidemic took hold in March, with Victoria state accounting for 97 per cent of the fresh cases.

The surging cases prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in Melbourne, Victoria's capital and Australia's second most populous city, and flag a hit to third-quarter economic output.

Most major sectors were trading in the red, with tech stocks leading the fall. Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay was the top loser with a near 2 per cent drop.

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The financial index slipped as much as 0.8 per cent, with the "big four" banks losing between 0.7 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

Westpac Banking Corp, the country's second-largest lender, tapped Deutsche Bank's chief of Australia and New Zealand as its institutional business head.

The gold sub-index rose for a fifth straight session and hit a record high as bullion prices hit a nine-year peak on US-China tensions and stimulus hopes.

Newcrest Mining, Australia's biggest listed gold miner, was the top gainer on the index after reporting fourth-quarter production above estimates.

The energy index climbed for a third straight session. Santos led the gains with a rise of up to 2.6 per cent after saying it expected steady output in the near term.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 per cent to 11,701.7, with Oceania Healthcare leading the fall after reporting a 15 per cent drop in full-year profit.

REUTERS

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