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Australian shares fall in early trade as investors keep an eye on rising rates and Covid

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Pedestrians are reflected in a window as they walk past an electronic stock board at the ASX Ltd. exchange centre in Sydney, Australia, on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019.
David Moir | Bloomberg | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Australian shares fell in early trade on Monday as investors keep an eye on the coronavirus pandemic as well as rising interest rates in the U.S.

The benchmark ASX 200 declined 0.58% as most sectors struggled for gains. The heavily weighted financials subindex was down 0.72% as major banking names sold off, but the energy and materials indexes advanced 0.61% and 1.04%, respectively.

Shares of major miners rose: Rio Tinto added 2.69%, Fortescue was up 3.02% and BHP added 1.58%.

Japan’s markets are closed for a public holiday.

Monday’s session followed a mixed session in Asia on Friday while stateside, the three major stock averages all declined.

The 10-year Treasury yield rose as high as 1.8% on Friday following the release of the December nonfarm payrolls report, where 199,000 jobs were added for the month. That fell significantly short of the market’s expectation for 422,000 jobs.

Last week, minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s December meeting indicated that officials are ready to aggressively dial back policy support. It showed that the central bank is planning to shrink its balance sheet in addition to hiking interest rates.

Elsewhere, Covid cases have continued to rise sharply around the globe following the emergence of the highly transmissible omicron variant. Places like the U.S. and U.K. have reported record number of cases in recent weeks.

Currencies and oil

In the currency market, the dollar index traded up 0.07% at 95.786 against a basket of its peers.

The Japanese yen changed hands at 115.62 per dollar while the Australian dollar traded near flat at $0.7180.

Oil prices fell Monday during Asian trading hours: U.S. crude was down 0.46% at $78.54 a barrel.

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