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Australian shares have followed US markets lower ahead of key US senate elections that will determine whether president-elect Joe Biden can act on his agenda.

The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 17.6 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 6666.6 at 1200 AEDT on Tuesday.

The All Ordinaries was down by 14.7 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 6939.0.

The All Ordinaries index is slightly above the level it started 2020 on, although the ASX200 is slightly below its equivalent.

There were losses of more than one per cent for energy, industrials, financials and property.

The energy sector was not helped by a fall in oil prices. The price fall came after OPEC+ failed to decide whether to increase output in February and agreed to meet again.

The only ASX sector higher was materials, up 1.81 per cent.

Earlier, most investors trading on US markets sold stocks ahead of Senate elections in the state of Georgia that will determine control of the chamber.

The result will affect whether Mr Biden has support for his agenda of rewriting the tax code, boosting stimulus and infrastructure spending.

Domestically, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ruled out distributing a coronavirus vaccine before March as he said it would have unnecessary risks.

There was better news in daily COVID-19 infection statistics. NSW and Victoria, the states most recently affected by the virus, each recorded four infections.

The spot gold price eased by 0.2 per cent to $US1938.11 after a strong showing on Monday.

However gold miners continued to thrive.

Northern Star was up 3.38 per cent to $13.74 and Newcrest gained 3.25 per cent to $27.89.

Elsewhere on the ASX, furniture retailer Nick Scali rose 7.28 per cent to $10.61 after saying first-half underlying net profit is expected to be 100 per cent more to $40.5 million, compared to the same period in 2019.

The company in October forecast a rise of 70 to 80 per cent, but on Tuesday said the better than expected availability of shipping containers in November and December led to more deliveries.

Nick Scali said its sales order book was at a record high on December 31, and these sales should lead to profit growth in the second half.

Miners were doing well. BHP rose 2.92 per cent to $44.32, Fortescue gained 1.53 per cent to $25.18 and Rio Tinto climbed 2.06 per cent to $117.74.

In banking, the big four were all lower. NAB fared worst and lost 1.35 per cent to $22.62.

Jewellery retailer Lovisa dived 3.52 per cent to $11.21 after saying it will close 42 stores in the UK temporarily, due to the government’s COVID-19 measures.

Lovisa’s other stores around the world remain open.

In the US earlier, the S&P 500 fell 55.42 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 3,700.65. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also fell from its record set last week, shedding 382.59 points, or 1.3 per cent, to 30,223.89. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite lost 189.84 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 12,698.45.

The Aussie dollar was buying 76.68 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower from 76.93 US cents at the close of trade on Monday.