* ASX sees the worst day in almost two weeks
* Crown Resorts cuts 95% of work
* NZ rises for the third session in a row
* RBNZ says negative interest rates are not ruled out (Update to close)
By Arpit Nayak
16 April (Reuters) – Australian shares closed lower on Thursday as analysts warned that the local unemployment rate is likely to worsen this month, while downbeat economic data from the United States kept investor risk appetite under control.
US retail sales and factory output plunged last month and gloomy forecasts issued by major Wall Street banks added to concerns about the severity of the economic blow from the coronavirus outbreak.
The S & P / ASX 200 index fell 0.9% to 5,416.30 at the close of trading, in the worst session since April 3.
Australia’s unemployment rate rose less than expected in March but the figures reflect a pre-COVID-19 hit and there may be 900,000 job losses in April, Citi economist Josh Williamson said in a note.
“March labor force data will soon be forgotten as the market prepares for April’s perhaps surprising work which includes steps (social distance) and falling activity,” Williamson added.
Energy stocks closed 1.6% lower because a small rebound in oil prices could not offset earlier sharp losses due to fears of oversupply.
Woodside Petroleum, Australia’s largest natural gas producer, gave up 1.4% after posting lower first-quarter sales revenue.
Heavyweight and financial miners finished 1.5% and 1.4% lower.
Among mining stocks, industrial giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto recorded losses of 2% and 1.4%, respectively.
All of Australia’s “Big Four” banks ended in the red zone, slumping between 1.3% and 2.3% respectively.
Meanwhile, Crown Resorts casino operator reversed an initial loss of 0.5% after saying it had reduced about 95% of its employees, because services at Melbourne and Perth resorts were suspended.
In a note to investors, Morgan Stanley warned that the benchmark index would struggle to maintain a longer rally as the company continued to withdraw earnings forecasts and blur the clarity of future earnings.
New Zealand’s S & P / NZX 50 benchmark index rose for the third session in a row, up 0.6%, or 63.25 points, to end at 10,473.19.
Milk producer A2 Milk rose 2.1%, while transportation and logistics company Mainfreight jumped 4.6%.
Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Adrian Orr said negative interest rates were not ready to fight the damage to the virus economy. (Reporting by Arpit Nayak; Editing by Rashmi Aich)
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