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Australia shares decline on weak manufacturing survey, fading U.S. stimulus hopes

10/22/2020 | 10:00pm

* Mining stocks fall 1%, gold stocks down 2.5%

* BlueScope Steel surges 12%, tops benchmark index

* Australia's Oct Mfg PMI below estimate - IHS Markit

Oct 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday, weighed down by miners, as weak manufacturing survey data and waning hopes for a pre-election U.S. coronavirus relief package knocked investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.3%, or 19.3 points, to 6,154 by 0112 GMT, after a 0.3% drop in the previous session.

A preliminary IHS Markit survey showed Australian manufacturing activity expanded in October at a weaker pace than last month and also missed estimates, as coronavirus-driven lockdowns in parts of the country continued to hamper economy recovery.

With the U.S. presidential election just around the corner, global equity markets have been volatile as U.S. lawmakers struggle to reach agreement on a coronavirus aid package.

Hopes of a deal were further dimmed when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had not spoken on Thursday.

In Australia, the metals and mining index, the biggest constituent of the benchmark, slid 1%. Top iron ore miners Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Group Ltd lost up to 1.4% each.

An overnight slump in bullion prices saw the gold sub-index fall 2.5%.

Resolute Mining Ltd fell the most, sliding 4% after Citi trimmed its price target for the stock. Red 5 Ltd was down 2.5%.

Tech stocks slipped 0.7%, with software maker WiseTech Global shedding 2.3%.

Mineral sands producer Iluka Resources plunged 46% as the stock traded on a demerger-basis after spun-off unit Deterra Royalties started trading on the stock exchange.

Among gainers, BlueScope Steel Ltd surged 12% in its biggest intraday percentage gain in four years on strong second-half outlook.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2% to 12,385.2, with IT services provider Serko Ltd and Vista Group International Ltd down about 2% each. (Reporting by Anushka Trivedi in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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