Australian Market Sharply Lower

The Australian stock market is sharply lower on Friday, giving up some of the gains in the previous two sessions, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 just above the 7,400 level, following the broadly negative cues overnight from Wall Street, with weakness across most sectors, particularly technology stocks.

Traders remain concerned over the rising domestic Covid-19 cases. New South Wales reported 63,018 new cases and 29 deaths on Thursday and Victoria also reported 34,836 new cases and 18 deaths. Queensland recorded 23,630 new cases and three deaths, ACT reported 1,125 new cases and Tasmania reported 1,201 new cases.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 67.80 points or 0.91 percent to 7,406.60, after hitting a low of 7,399.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 65.10 points or 0.84 percent to 7,732.40. Australian markets ended modestly higher on Thursday.

Among major miners, Rio Tinto and Mineral Resources are losing more than 1 percent each, while BHP Group and Fortescue Metals are edging down 0.4 percent each. OZ Minerals is down almost 2 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly lower. Woodside Petroleum and Beach energy are losing almost 1 percent each, while Santos is declining almost 2 percent. Origin Energy is flat.

Among tech stocks, Appen is losing almost 3 percent, Afterpay is plunging 7.5 percent, WiseTech Global is declining more than 2 percent, Zip is slipping almost 4 percent and Xero is sliding more than 3 percent.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are losing more than 1 percent each, while ANZ Banking is declining almost 1 percent.

Gold miners are mixed. Evolution Mining is losing almost 1 percent and Gold Road Resources is declining almost 2 percent, while Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources are edging up 0.3 percent each. Resolute Mining is flat.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.727 on Friday.

On Wall Street, stocks showed a significant move back to the downside during trading on Thursday with tech stocks leading the way lower. The tech-heavy Nasdaq showed a particularly steep drop, ending the day at its lowest closing level in three months.

The major averages saw further downside going into the close, ending the session near their worst levels of the day. The Nasdaq plunged 381.58 points or 2.5 percent to 14,806.81, the S&P 500 tumbled 67.32 points or 1.4 percent to 4,659.03 and the Dow fell 176.70 points or 0.5 percent to 36,113.62.

Meanwhile, the major European markets ended the day mixed. While the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.5 percent, the German DAX Index crept up by 0.1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged up by 0.2 percent.

Crude oil prices gave ground on Thursday as investors cashed in on recent gains that led to a two-month closing high. West Texas Intermediate crude for February delivery slid $0.52 or 0.6 percent to $82.12 a barrel after jumping $1.42 or 1.7 percent to $82.64 a barrel in the previous session.

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