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Australian Market Extends Losses

The Australian stock market is extending losses on Wednesday from the previous session despite the modest gains overnight on Wall Street. Worries about rising coronavirus cases in the Australian state of Queensland and political tensions in the U.S. weighed on the market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 19.30 points or 0.29 percent to 6,659.80, after touching a low of 6,657.10. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 11.80 points or 0.17 percent to 6,927.30. Australian shares closed lower on Tuesday.

In the banking sector, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking are down in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent, while Westpac is adding 0.2 percent.

Tech stocks are also mostly lower. Appen and Afterpay are declining more than 1 percent each, while WiseTech Global is adding 0.5 percent.

Oil stocks are notably higher after crude oil prices rose almost 2 percent overnight. Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are gaining almost 5 percent each, while Santos is higher by almost 4 percent.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto and BHP Group are adding almost 1 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is edging up 0.1 percent.

Gold miners are also rebounding even as gold prices slipped overnight. Evolution Mining is advancing more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is up 0.5 percent.

Premier Investments, an operator of specialty retail fashion chains, said it expects earnings before tax for the first half of 2021 to be 75 percent to 85 percent higher than the prior-year period. The company's shares are gaining almost 14 percent.

A group of unions have taken Qantas Airways to court, alleging that the airline manipulated rosters to keep a part of the wage subsidy payments. A December court ruling was in favor of Qantas. Shares of Qantas are declining almost1 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks ended slightly higher on Tuesday after a somewhat lackluster session, as investors largely refrained from making significant moves. Political tensions in the U.S. and worries about rising coronavirus cases weighed on stocks, while optimism about another big fiscal stimulus pushed up prices. Investors were also looking ahead to quarterly earnings reports.

The Dow ended the day with a gain of 60 points or 0.19 percent at 31,068.69, after rising to a high of 31,114.56. The S&P 500 edged up 1.58 points or 0.04 percent to settle at 3,801.19, while the Nasdaq closed up by 36 points or 0.28 percent at 13,072.43.

The major European markets closed lower on Tuesday. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended lower by 0.7 percent, Germany's DAX slipped 0.8 percent and France's CAC 40 edged down 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices moved higher on Tuesday, lifting the most actively traded oil futures contract to their best close in about 11 months. WTI crude for February ended up by $0.96 or about 1.8 percent at $53.21 a barrel.

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