February 25, 2020 / 7:02 AM / a month ago

Australian shares extend losses as virus fears linger; NZ down

(Updates to close)

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares on Tuesday added to the heavy losses in the previous session as investors remained on edge over the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China and its impact on global economic growth.

Sentiment was also hit after Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that his government might be unable to deliver Australia’s first budget surplus in over a decade due to the economic impact of the outbreak.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 1.6% at 6,866.70, after tumbling as much as 2.6% in early trading. The benchmark declined 2.3% on Monday.

Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Afghanistan and Iraq reported their first virus cases, while Italy and South Korea struggled with a jump in the number of coronavirus cases.

“There were also jitters that any pandemic-type spread could cripple global supply chains and wreak far greater economic damage than initially forecasted,” analysts at Phillip Futures said in a note.

A number of businesses also warned of their results taking a hit from the outbreak. Treasury Wine Estates said it would not meet its already lowered earnings forecast for the current year, while vitamin maker Blackmores Ltd projected a hit to its fiscal 2020 results.

Meanwhile, gold miners were dented as prices of the metal eased from the seven-year highs hit on Monday. The gold sub-index slumped 3.7%, with Saracen Mineral Holdings shedding 7.3% and Newcrest Mining slipping 3.6%.

Heavyweight global miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto Ltd declined 2.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

Oil Search closed 2.3% lower after the company flagged higher spending in 2020 and missed analysts’ estimates for annual net profit.

Oil and gas producers Santos Ltd and Woodside Petroleum shed 3% and 2.2%, respectively, as demand concerns lingered even as oil prices stabilized.

Elsewhere, takeover target Caltex Australia closed about 1% lower. The company said it was talking to other suitors, as it tries to wring best value from rival bidders Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc and Britain’s EG Group.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed 1.2%, or 137.89 points, to finish the session at 11,719.23.

Shares of Air New Zealand slipped 4.3%, while those of Synlait Milk dropped 3.5%. (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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