* JB Hi-Fi hits record high after strong HY results
* Boral down as much as 12.2% on bleak outlook
* Coronavirus-related deaths cross 900-mark
Feb 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday, dragged by energy and mining stocks as the coronavirus raised concerns about global growth while investors remained cautious ahead of corporate earnings later in the week.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5% to 6,988.1 by 2345 GMT.
Deaths from the coronavirus outbreak have crossed 900, exceeding the number killed globally by the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. The fast-spreading coronavirus has dented tourism and businesses, predominantly in China, Australia’s largest trading partner.
“It looks like China will be on a shutdown for at least a month, if not two, which could extend,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities. “There is a fair amount of minerals and services that go into China from Australia, so everything is on hold.”
Some of Australia’s major companies, including top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia, healthcare giant CSL Ltd, oil & gas major Woodside Petroleum, release their earnings later this week.
“People are reducing their market exposure in the short term to wait and see what happens in the reporting season,” said Somasundaram.
Among decliners, mining stocks contributed the most to losses in the index, with heavyweights BHP Group and Fortescue Metals Group losing up to 1.9% and 2.5%, respectively.
The local energy sub-index hit its lowest in over three months, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd slipping nearly 1.3% and 2.2%.
Financial stocks were weighed by declines in all the “Big Four” banks.
Top two lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp fell up to 0.6% and 0.5%, respectively.
Meanwhile, building materials maker Boral Ltd warned of a larger hit from bushfires in the second-half and revealed an investigation had found employees inflated earnings at its North American Windows business. Shares fell up to 12.2%, marking their biggest intraday percentage loss since August last year.
Among the gainers, gold stocks advanced over 2% as investors scurried to safe-haven assets. Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources were up 1.6% and 2.8%, respectively.
Meanwhile, shares of JB Hi-Fi Ltd hit a record high after the electronics retailer reported strong half-year results and raised its full-year outlook.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell as much as 0.7% to 11,675.710, with utilities and industrial sectors losing the most.
Electricity generator Meridian Energy Ltd slipped 3.4%, while Auckland International Airport fell up to 2.2%.
Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes