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Australia: Shares trade flat as gloomy US jobs data blunts vaccine cheer

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Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as a surprise uptick in US jobless claims amid coronavirus-driven fresh lockdowns halted a global stock market rally that was fuelled by optimism over a third potential vaccine.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as a surprise uptick in US jobless claims amid coronavirus-driven fresh lockdowns halted a global stock market rally that was fuelled by optimism over a third potential vaccine.

Broader sentiment took a hit after data showed US jobless claims rose unexpectedly for a second consecutive week, implying that new curbs to contain a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the United States could slow down recovery in the labour market.

"Surprising weakness in jobless claims, personal income and new home sales raised questions about the health of household budgets, and reversed the recent re-opening inspired trading," CMC Markets chief market strategist Michael McCarthy said in a note.

Back home, Australia's diplomatic friction with its biggest trading partner China increased after Beijing said some imported coal did not meet environmental standards, in response to reports of dozens of shipments of Australian coal stalled in Chinese ports.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent to 6,677.6 by 0007 GMT, with coal producers Whitehaven Coal and New Hope Corp dropping up to 4.5 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

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Heavyweight financials, set for their biggest daily loss in two weeks, were the worst performers on the benchmark, eclipsing gains in real estate and healthcare stocks.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 1.5 per cent while National Australia Bank gave up 1.9 per cent.

On the flip side, gold stocks rose the most in nearly two weeks after safe-haven bullion held steady amid broader risk-off sentiment, with Northern Star Resources adding 2.6 per cent and Saracen Mineral Holdings up 2.4 per cent.

Gold stocks kept the metals and mining sub-index in the black despite top miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto losing heavily.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 0.2 per cent to 12,639.38, with local shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both shedding more than 1.8 per cent.

REUTERS

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