The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.8 per cent to 6,663 at the close of trade, in line with a risk-off sentiment across broader Asia amid worries over rising global coronavirus cases.
As authorities investigated the source of the latest outbreak in the Sydney suburb, the head of Australia’s health department warned that the country may not fully reopen its international borders this year even if most of the population is vaccinated against coronavirus.
Local authorities were also looking at potential adverse effects of the Pfizer vaccine after Norway reported a small number of deaths in old people who received the shot.
Dour sentiment drove mining stocks lower despite a rise in copper and iron ore prices, with heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto shedding around 3 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.
Investors will shift focus to quarterly production numbers from both the mining giants over the next two days to gauge top commodity buyer China’s appetite for the products.
Energy stocks slipped in line with crude prices, with Woodside Petroleum losing 0.5 per cent and Santos giving up 0.8 per cent.
QBE Insurance Group fell nearly 6 per cent and was among the index’s biggest losers after the United Kingdom’s top court ruled in favour of policyholders on Covid-19 business interruption claims.
JB Hi-Fi was a bright spot in the index, rising 3.8 per cent after the electronics retailer forecast a surge in half-year profit on the back of strong demand for home appliances and strong online sales.
Shares of competitor Harvey Norman Holdings also jumped 3.7 per cent after JB Hi-Fi’s outlook update.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.4 per cent or 186.3 points to finish the session at 12,838.36.
Meridian Energy, and Contact Energy Ltd closed down 5.5 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively.