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Company News

Australia shares end lower as traders shun risk on virus surge

* Vaccine news fails to lift markets as caution weighs

* Australian, NZ benchmark index notch weekly gains

* Australian energy stocks post best week since Oct 2015 (Updates to close)

Nov 13 (Reuters) - Australian stocks closed lower on Friday, as risk sentiment sagged after major central banks warned that near-term economic risks remain as coronavirus infections accelerate, leading to heavy selling in travel and energy shares.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.2% to close the trade at 6405.2 points. Still, the benchmark index notched a weekly gain of 3.5%.

As the initial euphoria of vaccine news petered out, global equities were dragged down further after the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank said the economy was still in for a tough time, while the Bank of England said there was still a long way for drug trials.

“You have not only one, but three heads of the central banks around the world just commenting on the fact that the economic picture is still pretty dire at the moment, so that will definitely have some weight on investor sentiment,” said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

More than 52.45 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and about 1.3 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Back home, Australian energy stocks fell as much as 2.4% as crude prices declined on near-term fuel demand, while scaling gains of 14.2% for the week.

Santos and Cooper Energy each lost more than 2% while Beach Energy dropped 3.2% to its worst session since Oct. 29.

Travel and tourism stocks also fell, with Flight Centre Travel Group, and Corporate Travel Management each dropping more than 1%.

Bucking the trend, gold stocks rallied 4.5% as bullion prices inched up on economic slowdown concerns. Gold stocks, however, posted their worst week since the week ended Sept. 25.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reversed course to finish 0.2% higher. The benchmark recorded its best week since the week ended Oct. 9.

Medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp and logistics firm Mainfreight were the biggest percentage gainers. (Reporting by Deepali Saxena, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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