S&P/ASX 200

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Australia, NZ shares follow global markets lower as virus cases surge

10/28/2020 | 08:00pm

* All Australian sub-indexes in the red

* Gold stocks hit two-month low to lead the fall

* Seek Ltd top loser on ASX200 after short-seller report

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Stocks in Australia and New Zealand languished at three-week lows as a surge in cases of novel coronavirus around the world spooked global markets and stoked fears that prolonged lockdowns would damage a nascent economic recovery.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 1.1%, or 67.7 points, to 5,990.3 by 0057 GMT.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index also fell 1% to 12,137.1.

Equities from across Europe to the United States dropped on concerns over a steady increase in COVID-19 cases, with sentiment worsening after French and German leaders announced new lockdowns to combat the virus' spread.

Worries about global infections also outweighed news that Melbourne's shops, restaurants and hotels opened for business on Wednesday after a four-month coronavirus lockdown.

The Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for risk, was about 0.1% weaker against the greenback.

The gold index slumped 4.4% to hit a two-month low and led the declines. Westgold Resources Ltd and Gold Road Resources Ltd dropped 10.7% and 5.3%, respectively.

The country's biggest listed gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd slid 3.7% as it reported a decline in quarterly production.

Financial stocks slipped 1.6%, with the "Big Four" shedding 1.6% to 3%.

Energy stocks tumbled 2.7%, dragged by a 4% drop in Oil Search Ltd and Santos Ltd.

Crude, considered a barometer of economic activity, sank more than 5% overnight to reflect the fear of erosion of fuel demand.

The top percentage loser on the main index was online jobs portal Seek Ltd, down 8.6%, after short-seller Blue Orca said the company's Chinese unit Zhaopin houses a lot of junk listings.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 188 while 1,318 declined as a 0.1-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

In the New Zealand index, Oceania Healthcare Ltd and Air New Zealand Ltd were the biggest decliners, down about 3.5% each. (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

© Reuters 2021
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