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Company News

Australia shares track Wall Street lower but eye second straight weekly gain

* Australian benchmark up more than 3% for week

* Energy stocks eye best week in 5 years

* Gold stocks up over 3% on strength in bullion prices

Nov 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched lower on Friday, tracking losses in Wall Street, as investor optimism surrounding vaccine hopes faded due to renewed concerns over rising coronavirus infections and the economic impact of restrictions to tackle them.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.12% at 6,418.2 points in early trade. However, it was on track for its second straight weekly gain, having risen more than 3% for the week.

U.S. Fed Chair said near-term risks remain as the COVID-19 disease continues to spread unchecked, despite rising likelihood of an effective vaccine, while European officials warned against complacency and said measures to control a surge in infections as winter approaches must continue.

“The co-ordinated messaging may be interpreted as a call for further fiscal response from governments, but stands in stark contrast to the enthusiasm displayed this week by global investors”, said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

Energy stocks fell 1.8% as oil prices slid on the surge in coronavirus cases and an unexpected rise in U.S. crude stockpiles. However, with a weekly gain of about 13% so far, they eyed their best week since Oct. 2015.

Financials dropped 0.9%, while miners and tech shares were trading flat.

The gold sub-index, on the other hand, rose over 3% after bullion prices climbed on concern over the logistics of a potential COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, while hopes of more fiscal and monetary stimulus offered support to the safe-haven metal.

Among individual stocks, bulk grain handler Graincorp Ltd led gains on the benchmark, extending its climb a day after it forecast a strong 2021.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, which fell as much as 0.6% earlier in the session, was trading flat by 2345 GMT.

Manufacturing activity in the country experienced a drop in expansion during October, a survey showed.

Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft

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