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News: APT Australian shares steady after sharp losses, gold stocks shine

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    • "Big four" banks lose between 0.7% and 1.1%
    • Australian gold index hits record high
    • Energy stocks rise for third session

    Australian shares traded steady on Thursday, as gains in gold and energy stocks offset losses in most other sectors after authorities warned of a hit to economic growth.

    The S&P/ASX 200 index (xjo) was down 0.04% to 6,072.7 by 1249 GMT after Wednesday's 1.3% drop.

    Australia recorded 501 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, its highest since the epidemic took hold in March, with Victoria state accounting for 97% of the fresh cases.

    The surging cases prompted authorities to make masks mandatory in Melbourne, Victoria's capital and Australia's second most populous city, and flag a hit to third-quarter economic output.

    Most major sectors were trading in the red, with tech stocks .AXIJ leading the fall. Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay (APT) was the top loser with a near 2% drop.

    The financial index .AXFJ slipped as much as 0.8%, with the "big four" banks losing between 0.7% and 1.1%.

    Westpac Banking Corp (WBC) , the country's second-largest lender, tapped Deutsche Bank's chief of Australia and New Zealand as its institutional business head.

    The gold sub-index .AXGD rose for a fifth straight session and hit a record high as bullion prices hit a nine-year peak on U.S.-China tensions and stimulus hopes.

    Newcrest Mining (NCM) , Australia's biggest listed gold miner, was the top gainer on the index after reporting fourth-quarter production above estimates.

    The energy index .AXEJ climbed for a third straight session. Santos Ltd (STO) led the gains with a rise of up to 2.6% after saying it expected steady output in the near term.

    In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (nz50) slipped 0.2% to 11,701.7, with Oceania Healthcare (OCA) leading the fall after reporting a 15% drop in full-year profit.

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