June 29, 2020 / 1:26 AM / 11 days ago

Australian shares fall as rising virus cases dent sentiment

June 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday as a continued rise in cases of the novel coronavirus at home and around the world deepened fears of further economic pain.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.74% to 5,801.4 in early trade. So far this year, it has shed 11.7%.

Investors were cautious as global cases crossed 10 million, with Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria saying it will make COVID-19 tests for returning travellers mandatory after seeing its largest spike in two months on Sunday.

Among individual shares and sectors, financial stocks fell 2.7% as the “big four” banks lost between 2.4% and 3%.

The energy subindex dropped 3.09​%, led by Oil Search Ltd, down 4.49%.

Brent crude futures fell 1.9% and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude lost 1.97% as increasing infections sparked doubts about recovery in demand.

Miners dropped 1.2%, with heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Group losing 2.3% and 2.4%, respectively.

Rio Tinto said it reached an agreement with Mongolia to domestically supply power to its Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine.

The top percentage loser on the was Jumbo Interactive Ltd, down 12.09%, after it signed a term sheet with Tabcorp Holdings to amend and extend some existing reseller agreements.

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 323, while 763 declined.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.15%, with medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation advancing 2.8% on strong results.

Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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