Australian shares fall as miners, virus woes weigh

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Thursday, dragged down by losses in miners due to a slump in commodity prices, while the country’s rising coronavirus cases also weighed on sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6% to 7,458.4 in early trade, extending losses to a fourth consecutive session. The benchmark ended 0.1% lower on Wednesday.

Miners were top decliners on the benchmark, falling over 3% and extending losses to a fifth consecutive session following a slump in commodity prices.

Mining giant BHP Group fell over 5%, leading losses on the mining index, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue slid 3.6% and 4.5% respectively.

Australia’s largest city, Sydney, continued to break records for new daily cases with authorities saying that the worse was yet to come, while the state of Victoria reported its biggest rise in COVID-19 caseload this year.

Origin Energy dropped as much as 6.6% after its annual underlying profit plunged 68%, its lowest in 16 years.

Treasury Wine slid as much as 3.2% and was on track for its worst day in two months, after its fiscal 2021 profit missed analysts’ estimates.

Energy index was also down 1.6% on subdued oil prices.

Bucking the trend, gold stocks rose 0.8% as bullion prices firmed. Gold miner Evolution Mining was among the top percentage gainers on the index after posting a 14% jump in its annual net profit.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 1.4% to 12,892.87, even as the country’s central bank said it was looking to cut back stimulus support to meet its inflation and employment mandate.

$1 = 1.4599 New Zealand dollars Reporting by Tejaswi Marthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich