- The benchmark ASX 200 index lost 0.54% to end at 7,491.2 as new daily COVID-19 cases in the country topped 1,000 on Thursday for the first time ever
Australian shares snapped a three-day rally on Thursday, with losses in mining and gold stocks dragging down the resource-heavy benchmark index amid growing concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases.
The benchmark ASX 200 index lost 0.54% to end at 7,491.2 as new daily COVID-19 cases in the country topped 1,000 on Thursday for the first time ever.
Focus was now on the upcoming Jackson Hole Symposium on Friday in hopes that the US Federal Reserve does not change its stance on policy tightening.
"I think... (Fed chair) Jerome Powell is basically going to repeat what he said before and give no guidelines on tapering," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.
Investors are also bracing for a more hawkish stance from some of the major central banks around the world, following a surprise move by the South Korean central bank to raise its policy rate for the first time in nearly three years.
"South Korea putting up rates has started the capital wars, as we're beginning to see risk come into the market and the money is looking to leave Australia," Somasundaram added.
Miners fell 1.6% on weaker copper prices, with global miners Rio Tinto, BHP Group and Fortescue Metals losing about 1% each. Gold stocks led declines on the benchmark, shedding 2.3% on subdued bullion prices, with Tribune Resources falling the most.
Financials fell 0.2%, with one of the "Big Four" lenders, National Australia Bank slipping 0.5% after it was fined A$18.5 million ($13.43 million) for issuing incorrect fee disclosure statements in a 2019 case.
Tech stocks lost 1.2%, with Appen Ltd and Link Administration leading losses on both the sub-index and the broader benchmark, down 21% and 12.6%, respectively.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.9% to 13,051.62. Dairy firms A2 Milk Company Ltd and Synlait Milk Ltd were the top losers, down 11.3% and 6%, respectively.