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Australian shares close lower as spiralling pandemic stokes recovery fears

* Australian benchmark sees lowest close in over three weeks

* Orocobre tumbles on 24% fall in quarterly production

* Tech stocks track Wall Street counterparts lower (Updates to close)

Oct 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares on Thursday closed at their lowest level in more than three weeks as surging cases of COVID-19 around the world stoked fears of a difficult global economic recovery.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.6% lower at 5,960.30, its lowest since Oct. 5, with gold and energy stocks leading the declines.

Twelve U.S. states set records for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, while Germany and France announced plans to shut large swathes of public life for a month as the pandemic spread across Europe.

“At the moment, it’s pretty clear that Europe is going into lockdown. So, there is definitely a downgrade cycle coming out of Europe... and post-election, I assume parts of the United States will be going into restrictions as well,” said Mathan Somasundaram, CEO of Deep Data Analytics.

Denting sentiment further were jitters over U.S. election’s outcome and fading hopes of a stimulus deal before the polls.

“The market keeps being negative till we see some clarity,” Somasundaram said.

The Australian energy index declined 2.9% on weaker oil prices. Santos fell 5%, while Woodside Petroleum lost 2%.

Gold stocks shed 4.2%, with Westgold Resources losing 8.9% and OceanaGold Corp sliding 5.5%.

The broader mining index fell 2.2%. BHP Group and Rio Tinto declined 2.2% and 1.1% each.

Orocobre Ltd tumbled 3.8% after the lithium producer flagged a 24% fall in quarterly production from its flagship Olaroz mine in Argentina.

Australian tech firms fell 2%, tracking tech stocks on Wall Street overnight. Afterpay fell 3.3%, while WiseTech Global lost 1.7%.

The heavyweight financial index closed 1.5% lower, with all the “Big Four” banks ending in the negative territory.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5% lower at 12,201.80.

Top losers were Oceania Healthcare, losing 3.6%, and Air New Zealand that fell 3.4%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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