Australia shares end lower as coronavirus spreads; NZ down

Australia shares end lower as coronavirus spreads; NZ down

Australian shares closed more than 1 per cent lower on Tuesday, amid weakness in energy and mining sectors, on fears that the fast-spreading coronavirus could have a negative impact on the domestic economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 1.4 per cent at 6,994.50, its lowest since January 15. Markets were closed on Monday in observance of Australia Day.

Death toll from the virus has risen to more than 100 and infected over 5,000 people, worrying investors about economic growth in China, Australia’s top trading partner.

“Going forward, the question would be how severe the implications of the virus would be for markets… but amid the uncertainty, it seems that China would be the one taking a bigger toll,” IG market strategist Jingyi Pan said in a note.

Australia’s energy sub-index dropped 3 per cent to a near four-week low as oil prices fell on concerns of crude demand in the backdrop of the virus.

Industry major Woodside Petroleum declined 2.4 per cent to close at its lowest since January 2, while Santos Ltd ended down 2.3 per cent — an over three-week low.

Prices of commodities including iron ore and copper fell, dragging the mining sector nearly 3 per cent lower.

Mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto slumped as much as 3.3 per cent and 3.1 per cent, respectively.

The financial index, which accounts for about one-third of the local benchmark’s total weightage, finished down 1.3 per cent, the lowest since January 16.

The country’s “big four” banks closed lower, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group each falling more than 1 per cent .

Qantas Airways Ltd ended at a near three-month closing low on worries of a negative impact to travel demand.

In New Zealand, travel and tourism-related stocks were the biggest losers. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended down 1 per cent at 11,685.11, its lowest close since January 16.

Tourism Holdings closed about 4.8 per cent lower, while Auckland International Airport ended 2.3 per cent down.

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