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Australia: Vaccine optimism sets shares for best month on record

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Australian shares were on course for their best month as the market euphoria around Covid-19 vaccines and Joe Biden's transition to the White House lifted sentiment, despite a slight easing on the day amid a rise in coronavirus cases globally.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were on course for their best month as the market euphoria around Covid-19 vaccines and Joe Biden's transition to the White House lifted sentiment, despite a slight easing on the day amid a rise in coronavirus cases globally.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent to 6,622.9 by 0006 GMT on Friday, though losses on the benchmark were limited as Victoria, previously the country's coronavirus hotbed, said it had detected no fresh infections in the last 28 days.

The benchmark was on course for its fourth straight weekly gain and its best month on record, supported by optimism surrounding easing lockdowns.

In the closest he has come to conceding the US election, US President Donald Trump said late Thursday that he would leave the White House if the S Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, soothing political uncertainty in Washington.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca, however, said it would likely run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its Covid-19 vaccine amid questions over results from its late-stage study, Bloomberg News reported.

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The vaccine was touted to be cheaper and more easily distributable than rivals and some experts say the concerns could affect its chances of getting speedy US and EU regulatory approval.

"There is certainly some rough terrain ahead for the global recovery - and potential for economic scarring," analysts at ANZ said in a note, citing a spurt of new Covid-19 cases across the United States and Europe.

Energy, mining and financial stocks were all headed for a fourth straight weekly gain, while gold stocks were set for their biggest monthly loss since March.

Still, energy stocks saw their biggest decline on Friday as oil prices retreated on oversupply concerns. Index heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost as much as 1.4 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively.

Healthcare stocks fell 0.7 per cent, with industry giant CSL accounting for a bulk of the losses.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index traded flat at 12,601.85, as gains in healthcare and utilities balanced out losses in financials.

REUTERS

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