Australia shares end lower as coronavirus spreads; NZ down


* Aussie benchmark closes at near two-week low

* Qantas Airways hit by fears of reduced travel demand

* Travel-related stocks drag NZ benchmark lower (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

Jan 28 (Reuters) – Australian shares closed more than 1% lower on Tuesday, amid weakness in energy and mining sectors, on fears that the fast-spreading coronavirus could have a negative impact on the domestic economy.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 1.4% at 6,994.50, its lowest since Jan. 15. Markets were closed on Monday in observance of Australia Day.

Death toll from the virus has risen to more than 100 and infected over 5,000 people, worrying investors about economic growth in China, Australia’s top trading partner.

“Going forward, the question would be how severe the implications of the virus would be for markets… but amid the uncertainty, it seems that China would be the one taking a bigger toll,” IG market strategist Jingyi Pan said in a note.

Australia’s energy sub-index dropped 3% to a near four-week low as oil prices fell on concerns of crude demand in the backdrop of the virus.

Industry major Woodside Petroleum declined 2.4% to close at its lowest since Jan. 2, while Santos Ltd ended down 2.3% — an over three-week low.

Prices of commodities including iron ore and copper fell, dragging the mining sector nearly 3% lower.

Mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto slumped as much as 3.3% and 3.1%, respectively.

The financial index, which accounts for about one-third of the local benchmark’s total weightage, finished down 1.3%, the lowest since Jan. 16.

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The country’s “big four” banks closed lower, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group each falling more than 1%.

Qantas Airways Ltd ended at a near three-month closing low on worries of a negative impact to travel demand.

In New Zealand, travel and tourism-related stocks were the biggest losers. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended down 1% at 11,685.11, its lowest close since Jan. 16.

Tourism Holdings closed about 4.8% lower, while Auckland International Airport ended 2.3% down. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)



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