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Australian shares closed unchanged on Friday, dragged by retail conglomerate Wesfarmers and rare earths miner Lynas, while investors awaited Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech for clues on the central bank’s tapering timeline.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 ended 0.04% lower at 7,488.3 and posted a second straight weekly loss.

Wesfarmers dropped 2.8% after it flagged a gloomy start to fiscal 2022, even as it announced a surprise A$2.3 billion ($1.66 billion) buyback.

Shares of Lynas, the world’s biggest rare earths miner outside China, shed 3.6% despite a record annual profit.

Overnight, Wall Street indexes declined as positive economic data and hot inflation has prompted talks of the Fed potentially beginning tapering asset purchases and its accommodative stance.

“The market will try to read between Powell’s lines, resulting in a potentially binary reaction depending whether he attempts to downplay Delta concerns,” analysts at OCBC Bank said in a note.

“However, this would likely be knee-jerk, as the market should quickly shift focus to the other key events in the coming weeks.”

Tech stocks gave up 1.2% and were the biggest losers on the benchmark. Appen Ltd shed 6.1% and NEXTDC lost 5.4%.

Miners also slipped as copper prices in London dipped. Pilbara Minerals fell 6.6% and Orocobre dropped 5.3%.

Meanwhile, data showed retail sales in Australia plunged in July due to coronavirus curbs, suggesting the economy could contract sharply in September quarter.

Gold stocks, however, jumped, with Calidus Resources rising 11% and Ora Banda Mining climbing 5.3%.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 ended 0.1% higher at 13,059.79 points.

The gains came on the back of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relaxing some nationwide lockdown measures that also helped the benchmark bourse end roughly 1% higher for the week.


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