July 10, 2020 / 1:37 AM / a month ago

Australia shares fall as authorities grapple with coronavirus surge; NZ falls

July 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday as sentiment was hit ahead of a national cabinet meeting to discuss slowing the number of citizens allowed to return to the country from overseas, as authorities battle a surge in coronavirus cases in Victoria

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4% to 5,933.9 points. It was on track to post a weekly loss of over 2%, poised for its worst week in nearly month.

The cabinet meeting comes as Melbourne begins a second day under a six-week lockdown, while Queensland is set to tighten its border by banning non-residents from Victoria entering the state from Friday noon. New South Wales and South Australia closed their borders with Victoria earlier in the week.

Gold stocks declined 2.1% and were set to snap three straight sessions of gains as bullion prices retreated, a day after vaulting to nearly nine-year highs.

Bellevue Gold dropped about 5% after resuming trading, a day after announcing a discounted share placement.

The energy sub-index fell 2.5% as oil prices declined over worries that renewed lockdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus in the United States would again sink fuel consumption.

Oil Search Ltd dropped about 4% while fuel supplier Viva Energy Group Ltd shed over 2.4%.

Financial stocks fell 0.4% and were set to post losses for a fifth straight week.

Research broker Jefferies warned resurgence of coronavirus cases in the country is bad news for Aussie banks as health concerns will be prioritised over financial considerations.

Bucking the trend, tech stocks rose 1.2%. RBC Capital Markets said Australian tech companies provide “certainty in an uncertain world”, driven by greater technology adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index erased early gains and fell 0.2%, weighed down by tech and telecommunications stocks.

Telecom services provider Chorus Ltd slumped over 11% after reporting a decline in its fourth-quarter total fixed line connections due to coronavirus-induced lockdowns. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber)

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