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ASX 200 closes 2% lower; Australia shares end at six-week low

Australian shares closed at a six-week low on Wednesday, dragged down by losses in heavyweight bank and mining stocks, while EML Payments Ltd was the top loser on the benchmark index on fears of regulatory curbs on its Irish unit.

The benchmark ASX 200 index snapped a three-day rally to end 1.9 per cent lower at 6,931.70, its lowest close since April 7.

“It’s a widespread sell off, no sectors have been exempted from the selling, including those mining stocks that have had improvements in commodity prices,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec.

“There are concerns in the U.S. with significantly higher inflation…something to keep in mind is that we’re coming off the back of three straight days of gains.”

Payments services provider EML Payments tanked nearly 46 per cent, after it said that its Ireland unit could face regulatory curbs.

Among sectors, gold stocks shed 2.8 per cent despite bullion prices hitting a near four-month high.

St Barbara, down nearly 7 per cent, was the top loser on the sub-index for a second session in a row after the miner cut its annual gold output forecast.

The financial sub-index closed down nearly 2 per cent. The “Big Four” banks lost between 1.4 per cent and 2.6 per cent. Miners dropped 3.3 per cent to hit their lowest close in two weeks, with heavyweights Rio Tinto, BHP Group and Fortescue Metals losing between 3.2 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

Energy stocks slumped 2.8 per cent, tracking a downturn in oil prices on demand concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in Asia. Heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Santos lost 2.6 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

In New Zealand, the benchmark NZX 50 index declined 1.2 per cent to end at 12,281.5.

The focus is now on the release of the country’s budget this week, which is expected to target spending on curbing issues of rising homelessness and inequality.

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