* ASX benchmark set to snap 7-day rally
* ‘Big Four’ lenders decline between 2.4% and 3.6%
* NZ shares set for third day of declines
By Pranav A K
June 11 - Australian shares fell the most in nearly a month on Thursday, with heavyweight financials leading losses, after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s bleak outlook for the economy tamped down investor hopes of a speedy recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Policymakers reiterated a continuing support for the U.S. economy but projected it to shrink 6.5% this year. Fed officials also flagged the need to keep the key interest rate near zero through at least 2022.
On track to snap a seven-session rally, the S&P/ASX 200 index declined as much as 1.8% in its worst session since May 13. It was down 1.2%, or 72.4 points, at 6,076.0 by 0039 GMT.
Leading losses in the region, financial stocks lost up to 2.8%. Shares of the “Big Four” Australian lenders dropped between 2.4% and 3.6% and were set for a second straight day of losses.
A decline in crude prices led the energy index 2.3% lower for a second straight session. Heavyweight Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Viva Energy Group Ltd slid 3.1% and 3.2%, respectively.
Meanwhile, retailers continued to benefit from the shift to working from home as JB Hi-Fi Ltd rose 2.9% to a near four-month high after the electronics retailer upgraded its profit forecast for the year by 20%.
On the other hand, higher bullion prices sent gold stocks soaring more than 5% to their highest level in a week.
Northern Star Resources Ltd led gains on the sub-index, rising 8.2%, followed by Bellevue Gold Ltd, gaining 7.4%.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched 0.1% lower, or 16.2 points to 11,244.3. The benchmark was on track for its third straight session of declines.
NZ-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp shed 4.5%, while Air New Zealand Ltd lost 4.3%.
Reporting by A K Pranav in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich