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Australian shares tumble as firmer bond yields, fall in tech stocks weigh

02/26/2021 | 01:14am

* Australian cenbank announces unscheduled bond purchase

* Tech stocks drop tracking Wall Street peers

* New Zealand snaps six sessions of losses

Feb 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at their lowest level in nearly a month on Friday, with tech stocks leading the declines, as risk assets lost their sheen after global bond yields firmed on expectations of economic expansion and rising inflation.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 2.4% lower at 6,673.3, marking its sharpest fall since Sept. 4, 2020. For the week, the index shed 1.8%.

Yields on Australian and global bonds continued to rise, prompting the Reserve Bank of Australia to launch an unscheduled offer to buy three-year government bonds.

"The central bank's monthly meeting on Tuesday will also be closely watched for comments on the volatility from the bond sell-off, but we don't expect any major policy changes," said Steven Daghlian, market analyst with CommSec.

Higher bond yields make equities look less attractive as they diminish the lure of stocks' dividend payouts, and make debt servicing harder for companies.

Tech stocks dived 5.3% and lost 12.8% over the week, mirroring a downturn in their Wall Street peers, with fintech co Afterpay Ltd dropping 11%.

Energy stocks skid 2.5%, hurt further by a fall in oil prices.

Oil & gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 3.4% and 2.1%, respectively.

Miners fell 2.1% despite higher metal prices, with BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group shedding 2.6% and 4.5%, respectively.

Financials also slid, with the so-called "Big Four" banks falling between 2% and 2.6%.

Commercial explosives maker Orica was the biggest percentage loser on the benchmark index after it said the trade spat between Australia and China will hit its sales to thermal coal mining customers.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index snapped a six-session losing streak to end 0.7% higher, helped by gains among utility and industrial stocks.

(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru)

© Reuters 2021
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