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Australia shares close lower as U.S. stimulus appears elusive

10/22/2020 | 02:02am

* Energy stocks slip as oil prices fall further

* Gold stocks decline as bullion prices retreat

* Miners, healthcare stocks buck downtrend

Oct 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Thursday, weighed down by energy and financials stocks, as talks on a new U.S. fiscal coronavirus aid package dragged on, raising fears of a delayed deal.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.5% in intraday trade before miners helped it recoup some of the losses to settle 0.3% lower at 6,173.80, its lowest close since Oct. 12.

Overnight, Wall Street's three major averages closed lower, after U.S. President Donald Trump accused Democrats of being unwilling to craft an acceptable compromise on stimulus.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also expressed doubts over the passage of a deal before the presidential election.

"I'm very doubtful that we will get any stimulus agreement being this so close to the election... It has the potential to put either party at a disadvantage if they were to agree with something now," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Australian energy stocks closed 1.9% lower as oil prices extended losses after a build in U.S. inventories pointed to a deteriorating outlook for fuel demand.

Oil Search closed 3.7% lower after hitting a two-week low earlier in the day, while Santos slipped 1.9%.

Financials fell 0.5% after earlier touching their lowest level in more than a week. The "Big Four" banks - Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, National Australia Bank Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp - slipped between 0.5% and 0.8%.

Gold stocks declined 0.7% as bullion prices retreated. Resolute Mining fell 6.4% and Chalice Gold Mines lost 6.7%.

Miners finished 0.2% higher, with both BHP Group and Rio Tinto adding about 1%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2% to 12,407.3. Top losers were Chorus Ltd, down 2.1%, and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp, losing 1.7%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

© Reuters 2020
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