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Australian Market Modestly Lower

Australian stock market is modestly lower on Friday, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 moving just below the 7,000 mark, as strong gains in gold miners and technology stocks were offset by weakness in materials, energy and financial stocks. Investors are also cautious amid the delay in vaccine rollouts. The cues overnight from Wall Street were positive.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 29.60 points or 0.42 percent to 6,969.20, after hitting a low of 6,965.50 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 24.50 points or 0.34 percent to 7,225.80. Australian markets ended higher on Thursday.

The major miners are weak. Fortescue Metals is edging down 0.1 percent, BHP Group is declining almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is losing 0.4 percent.

Oil stocks are lower after crude oil prices tumbling overnight. Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Santos are losing more than 1 percent each. Beach energy is down almost 3 percent.

Among tech stocks, Afterpay is gaining more than 2 percent, WiseTech Global is edging up 0.4 percent, and Appen also edging up 0.2 percent. Xero is adding almost 2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are down almost 1 percent each, while Commonwealth Bank is edging down 0.3 percent.

Gold miners are higher after gold climbed. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 1 percent, Northern Star Resources is up almost 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is edging up 0.2 percent. Gold Road Resources is adding almost 2 percent. Resolute Mining is gaining more than 2 percent.

In economic news, the services sector in Australia continued to expand in March, and at a faster rate, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group showed on Friday with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Services Index score of 58.7. That's up from 55.8 in February and it moves further above the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction. It also marked the highest reading for the index since June 2018.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.766 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Thursday after ending the previous session little changed. The tech-heavy Nasdaq showed a particularly strong upward move, while the S&P 500 reached a new record closing high.

The major averages all closed in positive territory, although the Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts. While the Nasdaq jumped 140.47 points or 1 percent to 13,829.31, the S&P 500 rose 17.22 points or 0.4 percent to 4,097.17 and the Dow inched up 57.31 points or 0.2 percent to 33,503.57.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index advanced by 0.8 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.5 percent and the German DAX Index crept up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices eased on Thursday, weighed down by concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to rising coronavirus cases and lockdown measures in several countries. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures for May dipped $0.17 or 0.3 percent at $59.60 a barrel.

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