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Australia shares end flat as energy, gold stocks drag

07/26/2021 | 02:46am

July 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares pulled back from record highs to end flat on Monday as gains in mining stocks were offset by losses in energy and gold stocks, while rising domestic coronavirus cases also added to investor worries.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed flat at 7,394.3 points, but remained near an all-time peak hit earlier in the session.

The most populous state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, on Monday reported a rise in fresh COVID-19 cases despite an ongoing stay-at-home order.

Mining stocks jumped as much as 1.5%, boosted by strong iron ore prices as a recovery in steel margins in China buoyed sentiment.

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto advanced 1.3% and 2.5%, respectively.

Meanwhile, energy stocks dropped 1.4% as oil prices fell on concerns about fuel demand from the spread of COVID-19 variants and floods in China.

Oil & gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost 1.4% and 1.9%, respectively.

Gold stocks fell to their lowest since April 7, hurt by weak bullion prices, with largest-listed gold miner Newcrest losing 1.5%.

"Investors are now looking for news to propel the market firmly into record territory", said James Tao, a market analyst with CommSec.

"In the short term, though there is a bit of uncertainty... participants will continue to look at the Sydney restrictions, and what that could mean for the country's economic recovery."

Beleaguered casino operator Crown Resorts plumbed near half-year lows as a Western Australia Royal Commission inquiry into its Perth operations was extended to March 2022.

Lynas Rare Earths was the biggest gainer on the benchmark index, after posting a record quarterly revenue.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5%, hurt by losses in financial and consumer stocks. (Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)

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