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Australia shares trade flat as gloomy U.S. jobs data blunts vaccine cheer

11/25/2020 | 07:33pm

* Diplomatic tensions with China flare over coal imports

* Gold stocks rise most in two weeks on firm bullion

* Financials lose most in two weeks amid broader weakness

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as a surprise uptick in U.S. 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 U.S. 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% to 6,677.6 by 0007 GMT, with coal producers Whitehaven Coal and New Hope Corp dropping up to 4.5% and 3.1%, respectively.

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%, while National Australia Bank gave up 1.9%.

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% and Saracen Mineral Holdings up 2.4%.

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% to 12,639.38, with local shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group both shedding more than 1.8%.

(Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

© Reuters 2021
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