Nov 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares slumped on Friday to
their worst session in nearly two months, as the detection of a
new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant in South
Africa sent energy and other major sectors tumbling.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.73% in its biggest
drop since Oct. 1 despite better-than-expected October retail
sales data. For the week, the index lost 1.6% and marked its
third straight weekly drop.
Australia said it was investigating the new COVID-19 variant
spreading in South Africa and warned it may close its borders to
travellers from the African nation if risks from the new strain
"Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later
until more is known about it," said Jeffrey Halley, a senior
market analyst, Asia Pacific at OANDA, referring to the new
"There's also a bit of nervousness in the next few weeks as
to this expectation of whether we'll get these (Christmas)
rallies," said Doug Symes, a senior client adviser at Novus
Energy stocks slumped 4.6%, their biggest since
September 2020, as oil prices tumbled on concerns that a supply
surplus could swell in the first quarter following a U.S.-led
coordinated release of reserves among major consumers and as the
new virus variant spooked investors.
Major oil companies Woodside Petroleum and Santos
fell 5.1% and 4.8%, respectively.
Travel stocks were among the biggest losers, with travel
management firms Flight Centre Travel Group and
Corporate Travel Management falling 7.5% and 5.8%
respectively, while Qantas Airways dropped 5.5%.
Miners gave up 1.9% as benchmark Chinese iron ore
futures fell 6.4% on concerns over the new COVID-19 variant and
new cases in Shanghai.
Sector heavyweights BHP, Rio Tinto and
Fortescue Metals Group fell between 1.5% and 3.9%.
Gold miners edged higher 0.4% as investors flocked
to safe havens.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped
1.3% to 12,628.89 in its worst session since March 22.
(Reporting by Harshita Swaminathan; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)