July 24, 2020 / 6:43 AM / 15 days ago

Australia shares close lower on Wall Street selloff, NSW restrictions

* CSL drags healthcare sector lower

* Australia benchmark down 0.2% on weekly basis

* NZ slips (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

July 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on Friday, led by tech stocks after Wall Street’s tumble overnight sparked a similar reaction domestically, while indications of a worsening COVID-19 situation added to the gloom.

The S&P/ASX 200 index settled 1.16% down at 6,024.0, following a 0.3% gain on Thursday. On a weekly basis, the benchmark fell about 0.2%.

Major U.S. indices fell overnight between a little more than 1% to over 2%, after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted at plans of another round of stimulus checks for Americans as early as next month.

“Mnuchin’s words are cheap and mostly political...the economy is broken and that means they have to send checks every month to keep it stable till the elections. That will bankrupt the United States and USD will collapse,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

Mnuchin’s comments come as U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly ticked higher last week amid a resurgence in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Domestic investor sentiment was further frayed after restrictions were reintroduced in New South Wales on Friday, as coronavirus infections continue to rise.

Technology stocks fell 2.1% led by Megaport Ltd , down 6.3%, followed by Bravura Solutions Ltd, losing 3.6%

Drugmaker CSL Ltd finished 1.9% down at its lowest close since May 29 after Morgan Stanley cut price target on its stock, citing “greater depression” in plasma collections than anticipated.

The pharmaceutical giant dragged the healthcare index 1.6% down to its lowest close since July 14.

Financial stocks fell 1.5% with all the Big Four banks closing in negative territory.

The energy index fell 1% led by Cooper Energy Ltd , down 7.2%, followed by Whitehaven Coal, losing 3.6%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5% to 11,636.3.

Top losers were Kiwi Property Group, down 3.7%, followed by Ryman Healthcare, losing 2.1%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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