July 31, 2020 / 1:38 AM / 8 days ago

Australian shares set for 2nd weekly loss as virus crisis worsens

* Australia records deadliest day of pandemic on Thursday

* Benchmark hits lowest level in more than 2 weeks

* Energy stocks slide over 3%, hit 2-1/2-month low

By Shruti Sonal

July 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell more than 1% on Friday and headed for their second straight weekly loss a day after the country recorded its deadliest day since the pandemic's onset, with sentiment further dented by a weak finish on Wall Street.

Fears deepened after Australia recorded 14 deaths and 700 new infections mainly in Victoria state on Thursday, with the negative sentiment compounded by dismal U.S. GDP data and the possibility of a delayed November election.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell as much as 1.6%, hitting its lowest level in over two weeks. However, it was poised for a fourth consecutive month of gains.

Wealth manager AMP Ltd led losses on the index, plunging as much as 11.5% after it said it expects its underlying profit to more than halve in the first-half.

Among major sub-indexes, the hardest hit was the energy index, which shed more than 3% and hit the lowest since May 18 as oil prices sank.

Power and gas retailer Origin Energy declined 2.8% as it posted a drop in fourth-quarter revenue from its share in the Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) project.

Gold stocks shed 2.5% and extended losses for a fourth consecutive session as bullion prices dipped.

Heavyweights Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources fell 2.8% and 2.5% respectively.

The mining index declined 2.5% and was set to snap a five-week rally of gains.

ASX-listed shares of mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Group fell more than 2.5% each.

Financials dropped 1.8% in their worst intraday session in over a month.

Bucking the trend, tech stocks climbed 0.3%, with buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay gaining 1.9%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to 11,721.280 points.

Shares of travel services provider Tourism Holdings gained nearly 6% after it provided a robust outlook for 2021. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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