Australia shares fall on COVID-19 vaccine production halt, post sixth weekly jump

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Australia shares fall on COVID-19 vaccine production halt, post sixth weekly jump

* Australia halts production of COVID-19 vaccine

* CSL sees worst day in over 3 months

* Benchmark posts sixth straight weekly gain (Updates to close)

Dec 11 (Reuters) – Australian shares ended lower on Friday as healthcare stocks dragged after the production of a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine was abruptly cancelled, but posted a sixth straight weekly jump.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6% to close at 6,642.6, after slipping as much as 0.8% during the session. It had ended 0.7% lower on Thursday.

The production of COVID-19 vaccine being developed by University of Queensland (UQ) and biotech giant CSL was halted after trials showed it could interfere with HIV diagnosis

CSL shares declined more than 3% in their worst day since Sept. 4, while peers Cochlear Ltd, Healius Ltd and Resmed Inc shed between 2.8% and 3.9%.

On the other hand, energy and gold sub-sectors gained on strength in commodity prices.

Oil and gas stocks saw their best day in over two weeks as crude prices rose 1%, extending a sharp rally overnight that saw Brent rise above $50 for the first time since March.

Heavyweights Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Santos Ltd and Beach Energy Ltd gained between 2.3% and 4.8%.

Miners hit a fresh high since April 2011, after benchmark iron ore futures on China’s Dalian Commodity Exchange soared nearly 10% to break above 1,000 yuan ($152.95) per tonne for the first time.

Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Group Ltd both hit their highest since May 2008.

Nickel and gold miner IGO Ltd saw its best day since September 2003 on deal to buy a stake in Tianqi Lithium Corp’s Greenbushes mine after returning to trade for the first time since Monday.

Across the Tasman Sea, the New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5% to finish the session at 12,860.37. For the week, it ended 0.5% higher.

The top percentage gainers were Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd, up 4.5%, followed by Tourism Holdings Ltd gaining 3.2%. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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