Australian shares ended slightly lower on Monday, as growing coronavirus cases in the country’s most populous state stoke fears of tighter movement restrictions, though gains in heavyweight miners limited losses.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent to close at 6,669.90, after closing 1.2 per cent lower on Friday.
A growing number of infections in Sydney’s northern beachside suburbs has prompted other states and territories to seal off borders with the New South Wales’ capital city, stoking fears that fresh curbs would slow down an economic rebound.
But the state recorded its lowest one-day rise in new cases in three days, with the local government set to provide an update on restrictions going into Christmas on Wednesday.
Hard border closures for New South Wales and reports of a fast-spreading new Covid-19 strain in the United Kingdom were weighing on sentiment, said Damien Rooney, director of equity sales at brokerage Argonaut.
Energy stocks suffered a 1.1 per cent drop as oil prices weakened amid concerns over the new Covid-19 strain in the UK. Woodside Petroleum fell 2.8 per cent, while Origin Energy gave up 1.6 per cent.
AGL Energy closed 5.1 per cent lower, after the country’s top power producer slashed its full-year outlook following a transformer incident that led to an outage at its coal-fired Liddell power plant.
Software firm WiseTech Global fell 6.5 per cent to be the biggest loser among tech stocks on reports of a short-seller attack.
Miners, however, climbed 1.6 per cent to hit their highest since April 2011, buoyed by a jump in iron ore prices, with Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Group climbing 5 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.
“Governments around the world are going to continue to stimulate their economies, which is not only bullish for safe havens like gold but iron ore as well,” said Andrew White, resources analyst at brokerage Curran & Co.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.6 per cent to close at 12,607.74.