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Australian shares end lower on worries over fast-spreading coronavirus

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 per cent lower at 7,139.

Reuters|
Last Updated: Feb 21, 2020, 01.50 PM IST
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The epidemic has disrupted economic activity in China and put Japan and Singapore on the brink of recession.
Australian shares ended lower on Friday as a rise in new coronavirus cases led investors to focus on the impact of the outbreak on global growth and supply chains on a quiet day for corporate results.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.3 per cent lower at 7,139, but recorded its third weekly gain, benefiting from company earnings and domestic expectations for monetary stimulus.

The epidemic has disrupted economic activity in China and put Japan and Singapore on the brink of recession.

"While the virus headcount stories don't carry the same headline gravitas, it's still a focal point while the economic data fears continue to simmer on the back burner," Stephen Innes, Asia Pacific market strategist at AxiCorp, said.

South Korea reported 52 new cases on Friday, underscoring fears of the global reach of the virus.

Energy stocks were in the red, with Santos and Beach Energy leading the losses as prices fell on fuel demand worries.

Miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto were down, while Fortescue Metals Group dropped 1.2 per cent.

Qantas Airways gave up some of its gains from Thursday after its results and was down 2.4 per cent.

Index heavyweights CSL Ltd and Cochlear Ltd were down 0.7 per cent and 4.4 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, Caltex Australia saw its best week since early January as the takeover tussle for it turned into a two-horse race.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended marginally higher at 12,073.34.

It was helped by gains from the local listings of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Group , which were up 1.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

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