Australian stocks end lower as Omicron spreads and financials slide

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Australian stocks closed nearly 1% lower on Tuesday, led by financials, as an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections in the country hovered near record highs, pushing down major retailers.

The S & P / ASX 200 Index ended down 0.77% to 7390.1, extending losses for the second session in a row. The benchmark index fell 0.08% on Monday.

Australia reported 86,000 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, and two more states are expected to report later today, straining already stretched hospitals and hitting business supply chains.

Financials fell as much as 1.7%, with some investors taking into account the possibility of faster increases in US interest rates. Commonwealth Bank of Australia led the losses among the Big Four with a decline of 1.8%.

“We are probably looking at increasingly rapid interest rate hikes in US markets, which will spill over into Australian markets in 2022 and 2023,” said Dale Raynes, associate director at CPS Capital.

Australia’s two largest supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, fell more than 2% each, while Wesfarmers fell 1.2%.

Retail sales data for November exceeded estimates for a second month, but an increase in COVID-19 infections since then threatens to point to weaker results in December.

Gold miners added 1.24%, leading to the index’s biggest increase since December, on the back of a rise in the price of the metal, seen as a hedge against rising interest rates.

Resolute Mining grew 2.94% and Evolution Mining grew 2.93%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S & P / NZX 50 fell 0.48% to 12,831.73, penalized by a 3.54% drop by cinema software maker Vista Group.

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