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Australasia, News

Australian shares fall on rising coronavirus cases, NZ slips

By Soumyajit Saha

June 18 (Reuters) – Australian shares fell on Thursday, weighed by heavyweight mining and energy sectors, as a spike in coronavirus cases across the United States and China put a damper on sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.41% to 5,967.5 points. The index is down 10.36% so far this year.

New coronavirus infections hit record highs in six U.S. states on Tuesday, while China’s capital cancelled scores of flights, shut schools and blocked off some neighbourhoods to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

That raised concerns of a slow pace of global economic recovery and halted a near 5% rise in the past two sessions that was spurred by the launch of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s corporate bond buying programme and hopes of a potential COVID-19 treatment.

Australia’s trade minister on Wednesday warned of a possible ban on international travellers till 2021.

The subindex for mining stocks fell 0.71%, led by declines in Fortescue Metals Group, as prices of Chinese iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange declined on worries about surplus risks.

Energy stocks fell 0.48​%, weighed by a 4% fall in shares of Ampol Ltd, after crude prices fell more than 1% as concerns about lower fuel demand returned with the surge in new virus cases.

Overnight, the benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.36%.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 243 while 292 declined as a 0.8-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.37% as data showed gross domestic product fell 1.6% in the March quarter, the largest drop in 29 years, as coronavirus restrictions sapped economic activity.

Air New Zealand Ltd dropped 5.74% as it forecast an underlying loss of up to NZ$120 mln ($77.30 mln).

($1 = 1.5523 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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