* Coronavirus likely to hurt Australia GDP in near term - RBA
* Energy and miners lead losses
* Gold stocks rise on safe-haven appeal (Updates to close)
By Nikhil Subba
Feb 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday for their second straight weekly loss, as the country’s central bank forecast slower growth in the near term following the coronavirus outbreak that has continued to grip global markets.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.4% to 7,022.60, after rising 1.1% on Thursday. On a weekly basis, the benchmark slipped 0.08%.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) on Friday cited the fast-spreading virus and the bushfires in the country, as it slashed forecasts for domestic economic growth in the near term to 1.9% in the year to June, down from a previous prediction of 2.6%.
The viral outbreak emanating from China, which had claimed more than 600 lives as of Thursday, could shave 0.2 percentage points off Australia’s economic output in the current quarter, RBA said.
“Global growth is now likely to slow further in the first quarter of this year, taking it to its weakest rate since the global financial crisis ... the recovery, when it does come, will be both slow and uneven,” said analysts at Capital Economics.
Central bank governor Philip Lowe said the virus outbreak represented a new source of uncertainty, adding that the risks to Australian economy would be “large”.
The energy sub-index declined 1.7% at the close, while marking its fourth consecutive weekly loss.
Beach Energy Ltd fell 4% to close at its lowest since Dec. 5, while Woodside Petroleum Ltd shed 1.5%.
Mining companies, which sell most of their produce to China, closed down 1.1% as Australian miners braced for a cyclone, leading iron ore to mark its biggest weekly loss since early August last year.
BHP Group Ltd ended nearly 2% lower, while Rio Tinto Ltd finished about 1% weaker.
The financials sub-index declined 0.2%, with three of the “Big Four” banks ending in the red. National Australia Bank edged down 0.1%, while Westpac Banking Corp lost 0.6%.
Bucking the trend, gold stocks ended 1.7% higher as investors scurried to safe-haven assets. Bellevue Gold and Gold Road Resources each ended more than 9% higher.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 1.4% higher at 11,760.88. This week, the New Zealand benchmark gained 0.4%, compared with last week’s 1.4% decline.
Kathmandu Holdings Ltd, the top percentage gainer in the index, rose 12.8% after the outdoor retailer forecast a nearly 40% rise in its first-half group underlying operating earnings. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)