* Benchmark snaps fourth straight weekly loss
* Weakness in financial stocks weigh on Australian index
* NZ benchmark falls for a third straight week (Updates to close)
Sept 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower for a second session on Friday, as losses in financials offset gains in mining stocks, while a rise in infections in the country’s coronavirus hotspot Victoria dashed hopes of a swifter recovery.
The S&P/ASX 200 index shed early gains to edge 0.3% lower to 5,864.5 at the close of trade. The benchmark inched 0.09% higher for the week after four weeks in the red.
The Australian stock market has been flitting in choppy trade this week as investors refrained from making big bets amid heightened worries about experimental COVID-19 vaccines, stimulus and a virus-battered economy.
Adding to the woes, the state of Victoria on Friday reported its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 infections in more than a week.
“Our markets are a bit balanced at the moment but we are in waiting game for the elections (U.S.) next as it’s only 30 trading days away now,” said Henry Jennings, analyst at Marcustoday.
“The market can’t really make up its mind today about which way to jump, but looks like investors are happy to bank some money and retreat to the sidelines.”
Mining stocks added 1.8% and recorded its best weekly gain in six, while gold stocks rose 1% in their best week since May.
The country’s biggest independent coal miner Whitehaven Coal ended 2.3% higher as the company urged its shareholders to reject a resolution on climate change.
Heavyweight financials lost half a percent and fell to its lowest level since June 1. Financial planning giant AMP Ltd dropped up to 9.2%, while the “Big Four” banks lost between 0.6% and 1.4%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 1.2% to its lowest close in more than a month, a day after the country fell to its deepest economic slump on record in the June quarter.
The index ended in the red for a third straight week. (Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)
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