Energy, gold stocks drag Australian shares to near 3-week low

Feb 10 (Reuters) – Australian shares fell on Friday to their lowest in nearly three weeks, dragged down by energy and gold stocks as appetite for risks soured over hawkish central banks and nagging fears about global economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6% to 7,449.7 by 2337 GMT, trading at its lowest level since Jan. 23. The benchmark has declined 1.6% so far in the week after five straight weeks of gains.

The Reserve Bank of Australia revised its forecasts for core inflation and wages growth and warned further increases in interest rates would be needed to head off a damaging wage-price spiral.

Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday more interest rate rises were on the cards as the U.S. central bank presses forward with its efforts to cool inflation, although none were ready to suggest January’s hot U.S. jobs report could push them back to a more aggressive monetary policy stance.

Energy stocks declined 1.5% and were among the top losers on the benchmark Australian stock index after oil prices fell. Sector heavyweights Woodside and Santos slipped 0.2% and 0.4%, respectively.

Gold miners slumped 1.8% after bullion prices fell overnight on fears of more interest rate hikes and ahead of next week’s U.S. inflation data.

Sector major Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources fell between 0.7% and 1%.

Tech stocks tracked Wall Street lower and were last down 1.8%. ASX-listed shares of Block Inc plunged more than 5%, while Xero slipped 0.8%.

Financials fell 0.5%, with all the “big four” banks trading in negative territory.

Meanwhile, shares of REA Group slumped 3.2% after the online property classifieds operator warned about losses and reported a lower profit.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4% to 12,163.1. (Reporting by Nausheen Thusoo in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)