ASX slips as Sydney’s virus cluster grows


The Australian sharemarket was slightly weaker as newly imposed restrictions due to Sydney’s growing coronavirus outbreak weighed on sentiment, with entertainment and travel stocks dragged lower.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 5.6 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 6669.9, following on from its fall on Friday, which was sparked by the growing northern beaches cluster and up-ended holiday plans for thousands of Australians.

The broader All Ordinaries index dropped 4.1 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 6920, while the Australian dollar at the end of local session was buying 75.64 US cents, down 0.8 per cent.

The spot gold price also nudged above US$1900 an ounce, the first time since early November. At 5pm AEDT, the spot gold price was trading at $US1902/oz.

CommSec said the slightly lower close of the local session came after US shares fell from record highs on Friday, following more uncertainty over the US government’s proposed coronavirus stimulus deal.

“The US Congress appeared increasingly unlikely to meet a deadline to agree on a $US900 billion COVID-19 aid package,” CommSec said.

“The Dow Jones index closed down by 124 points or 0.4 per cent. The S&P 500 index lost 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq index fell by 9 points or 0.1 per cent.”

Fortescue Metals enjoyed one of its largest daily gains, which has come off the back of ongoing strong demand from China for iron ore and is jacking up the price. The miner’s shares rose 4.9 per cent to a record close of $24.04.

Virgin Money UK suffered the biggest share tumble, dropping 6.7 per cent to $2.24.

Caps on the number of patrons at Sydney Star casino caused Star Entertainment Group’s share price to drop 2.4 per cent to $3.65.

Travel and aviation stocks also ended lower following the reintroduction of state border closures.

Qantas was down 0.6 per cent at $4.84, Queensland-based Flight Centre fell 1.8 per cent to $15.08 and Webjet was 0.4 per cent lower at $5.

ANZ was the only major bank to end in positive territory. Its shares were up 0.3 per cent at $23.31, while the other Melbourne big bank, National Australia Bank, fell 0.3 per cent to $23.30.

Westpac weakened 0.1 per cent to $19.88 and Commonwealth Bank dipped 0.2 per cent to $83.

Mining giant Rio Tinto rose 0.9 per cent to $118.60, while rival BHP jumped 1.2 per cent to $43.66.

Telstra was unchanged at $3.03, supermarket chain Woolworths fell 0.3 per cent to $39.87 and Bunning owner Wesfarmers lifted 0.2 per cent to $51.30.

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