Australian shares have pared back some of the early losses but sentiment remains cautious amid investor concerns over rising coronavirus cases at home as well as in the United States.
The S&P/ASX200 benchmark index was lower by 69 points, or 1.17 per cent, at 5835.1 points at noon, after being down more than two per cent earlier on Monday.
The All Ordinaries index was 70.2 points, or 1.17 per cent lower, at 5941.60.
IG Markets strategist Jingyi Pan said conflicting signals between the COVID-19 spread and economic data are keeping risk sentiment in a gridlock.
“While the expectations are long departed from the mass lockdown inflicted market conditions, specific areas seeing renewed restrictions may keep the volatility elevated in the short-term,” she said.
At home, Victoria recorded 75 new COVID cases, which follows nearly 100 new cases over the weekend.
Overseas, coronavirus infections in the US hit an all-time high, prompting some states to reverse course on the reopening of businesses and injecting jitters into the US market that has been mostly riding high since April on hopes that the global economy will recover as businesses open doors.
In the local market, all sectors bar healthcare were trading lower at noon.
Energy stocks were the worst affected following a decline in crude oil prices.
Shares in Oil Search lost 2.56 per cent to $3.04, while Woodside and Origin Energy were also each more than two per cent lower. Beach Energy declined by 5.4 per cent to $1.43.
Big miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue all lost more than 2.0 per cent each.
Property shares was down 3.22 per cent,
Financials, utilities and property shares were also badly affected.
All four major banks were down between 1.0 and 2.5 per cent, while Macquarie Group shares were also nearly 2.0 per cent lower.
Shares in renewable energy provider Infigen were up 3.1 per cent to 91 cents after Spanish utility Iberdrola raised its takeover bid to 89 cents a share.
Rival bidder UAC, a unit of Philippines conglomerate Ayala Corp, had earlier raised its offer to 86 cents and investors are relishing the likelihood of a bidding war.
Fisher and Paykel was a rare positively trading stock, with shares in the company rising 5.1 per cent to $31.17 after it reported a 37 per cent lift in full-year profit to $NZ287.30 million ($A268.81 million).
Demand for for respiratory and home care products due to the coronavirus pandemic has helped sales.
Travel stocks such as Qantas and Webjet continue to suffer sizeable falls over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, shares in Regional Express were up 4.2 per cent at 98 cents each after the regional airline its board has approved of a plan to launch flights between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne from March 1, 2021.
Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 68.75 US cents at 1200 AEST, slightly lower from 68.83 US cents at the close of trade on Friday.