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Australia shares snap four-day rally as virus outbreaks weigh

11/20/2020 | 01:17am

* Aussie benchmark gains 2.1% for the week

* South Australia lockdown to be eased earlier than planned

* Gold stocks extend losses to fourth day

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed a muted session lower on Friday, as losses in the prominent gold sector outweighed gains in financials, while investors held off big bets as major cities across the world reported virus outbreaks and shutdowns.

The resurgence of the virus globally comes just as travel restrictions are gradually being eased, and it is likely to dampen prospects of a broader reopening that would boost the recovery underway in many economies.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index snapped a four-session winning streak to end 0.12% lower at 6,539.2 points. For the week, it added 2.1%.

"Without knowing how some of the macro events might play out, there's really nothing to give a lead in the market," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

Smoling also pointed at Wall Street's subdued trading session on Thursday, and disappointment over U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin halting some of the Federal Reserve's pandemic emergency lending programs - which sent U.S futures lower.

In other news, authorities said that South Australia's drastic six-day coronavirus lockdown was triggered by a "lie", and that restrictions would be relaxed much earlier than previously planned.

The central bank raised concerns over the Australian stock exchange's trading systems, after nearly an entire session had to be abandoned earlier this week due to a software glitch, hitting investor sentiment further.

Gold stocks extended losses to a fourth day and have lost 6% over the week, as vaccine optimism kept demand for the safe-haven commodity muted. Index heavyweight Newcrest Mining , down 0.5%, was one of the top drags.

Conversely, financials closed higher for a fifth trading session, and logged weekly gains of over 6%, stoked by hopes of economic recovery on the back of an incoming vaccine.

Regis Healthcare, while not a part of ASX200, soared 24% after a buyout offer from its top shareholder and investment firm while shares of biopharma firm Mesoblast surged after a deal with Novartis to aid COVID-19 treatment.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.9% lower at 12,441.81, brought down by shares of Oceania Healthcare and Genesis Energy each losing around 3%. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta and Deepali Saxena in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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