Australia shares close lower weighed by gold, energy stocks

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By Soumyajit Saha

© Reuters/DAVID GRAY FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians are reflected in a window displaying stock prices at the Australian Securities Exchange in Sydney

(Reuters) – Australian shares ended lower on Friday, hurt by losses in gold and energy stocks as prices of the underlying commodities declined, ahead of crucial earnings due next week.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6% to 6,806.7 at the close of trade. The benchmark was down 0.5% for the week.

“Participants are taking some exposure off the board ahead of the risk event that the earnings season will be,” said Nick Twidale, chief executive officer of APAC at FP Markets.

Earnings from Australian heavyweights, including BHP Group, Rio Tinto and National Australia Bank, are scheduled for next week.

Risk sentiment was also weighed by news that the country’s second-most populous city Melbourne will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown after the discovery of a fresh cluster.

“Investors are closely watching Melbourne… there could be an acceleration in correction next week if the cases keep rising,” Twidale added.

Among sectors, energy stocks fell 1.3% as oil prices fell after OPEC cut its demand forecast and the International Energy Agency said the market was still over-supplied. [O/R]

Oil & gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd lost 1% and 1.6%, respectively.

Gold stocks fell 1.8%, snapping four-straight sessions of gains, as prices of the precious metal was weighed by a stronger dollar. Top independent gold producer Newcrest Mining was down 1%. [GOL/]

Global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto fell 1.7% and 1.2%, weighing on the broader sector..

Meanwhile, shares of Crown Resorts fell as much as 2.1% after the company said it was considering the position of its chief executive and as a third director resigned.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.3% on Friday, dragged down by industrial and financial sectors. The index was down 3.6% for the week.

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