Shares extended losses on the Australian market amid a worrying increase in virus infections, with investors looking to book profits after recent gains.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 70.7 points, or 1.15 per cent, at 6085.6 points at 1200 AEST on Wednesday.
The All Ordinaries index was 65.5 points, or 1.04 per cent lower, at 6203.3.
The indices opened lower, led by selling in technology and healthcare shares, but trended downwards after media reports that Victoria was set to announce a record increase in daily new coronavirus cases.
The state is in a six-week lockdown after lapses in its hotel quarantine program, which has led to a resurgence in cases.
Overnight, US markets markets lost steam in late trading after rallied initially on news of the European Union reaching agreement on a massive coronavirus recovery fund that boosted hopes for similar stimulus measures in Washington.
Among local shares, the healthcare and information technology sectors sustained the biggest losses, down 2.97 and 2.44 per cent respectively.
The heavyweight financial sector was also down 0.76 per cent.
Among the major banks, ANZ lost 0.61 per cent to $18.60, the Commonwealth slid 0.98 per cent to $73.70, NAB dropped 0.99 per cent to $18.08 and Westpac sunk 0.72 per cent to $17.99.
However, shares in QBE gained 1.5 per cent to $9.81 after the insurance giant flagged a half year net loss after tax of 1.1 billion, mainly due to COVID-19, higher catastrophe and accident claims and a loss on its investment portfolio.
There were losses of more than 1.0 per cent for materials, industrials, property and utilities.
The major miners went backwards. BHP lost 3.48 per cent to $37.45, Rio shed 1.06 per cent to $104.96 and Fortescue slipped 2.15 per cent to $16.38.
However, shares in Oz Minerals rose 3.62 per cent to $13.45 after the company upgraded its guidance following a strong first half production of gold and copper.
The only sector higher was energy, up 1.49 per cent.
The energy sector’s gains came after crude oil prices gained on hopes of stimulus in major economies.
Beach Energy shares jumped 4.04 per cent to $1.54 after it said full-year earnings and oil production will be close to the previous guidance, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices.
There were gains of more than 2.0 per cent for Santos and Woodside.
Elsewhere, Baby Bunting soared by 6.67 per cent to $3.36 after reporting full-year earnings were up 22 to 25 per cent from the past year.
The Australian dollar gained as risk appetite returned on stimulus hopes globally. It was trading at 71.34 US cents at 1200 AEST, sharply higher from 70.38 US cents at Tuesday’s close.