July 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched lower on Monday as a spike in COVID-19 cases both locally and globally dented investor sentiment, a day before the central bank meets to decide on its monetary policy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3% to 6,043 points in early trade. It has declined 16% since hitting its lifetime high on Feb. 20.
The border between Victoria and New South Wales, Australia’s two most populous states, will close from Tuesday for an indefinite period, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.
The decision came after Victoria, the second most-populous state in Australia, reported its biggest jump in coronavirus cases since late March on Saturday, leading to the expansion of stay-at-home orders and the complete lockdown of nine public housing towers.
Further denting sentiment, rising coronavirus cases in 39 U.S. states cast a shadow over the nation’s Fourth of July celebrations, while the worldwide tally of cases crossed 11.35 million.
The Reserve Bank of Australia is expected to hold the cash rate at 0.25% at its meeting on Tuesday, while investors will likely focus on any comments regarding the recent spike in infections in Victoria and its impact on the economy.
The ASX 300 metals and mining index fell 0.7%, led by a 3.3% drop in Sims Ltd. Mining giant Rio Tinto dropped as much as 0.9% to its lowest since June 22.
Gold stocks slipped 0.5%, with AngloGold Ashanti Ltd shedding 5.7%, while Red 5 Ltd lost 2.2%.
Financials fell 0.4% and were on track to snap a four-session winning streak. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped as much as 0.7%.
The tech sub-index climbed 0.6%, heading for a fifth straight session of gains.
Afterpay Ltd rose 1.8% after Qantas Airways announced a partnership that allows users of the airline’s frequent flyer programme to benefit by using the buy-now-pay-later firm’s payment platform.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.21% to 11,583.2 by 0035 GMT.
Metlifecare Ltd surged more than 10% after the retirement village and aged care provider received a fresh takeover offer from Asia Pacific Village Group. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)