* Johnson & Johnson pauses COVID-19 vaccine trials
* Impasse in U.S. fiscal aid package talks sours sentiment
* Lower oil prices hurt Australian energy stocks
Oct 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on
Wednesday, with heavy selling in financial and energy stocks, as
halted COVID-19 vaccine trials and an elusive U.S. coronavirus
relief package dented risk appetite.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.3% to 6,179.20 at
the close of trade. The benchmark closed 1% higher on Tuesday.
Global markets took cue as major indexes on Wall Street
closed the previous session in the red, after COVID-19 vaccine
trials were paused by Johnson & Johnson due to an
unexplained illness in a study participant.
Diminishing hopes for the passage of a U.S. coronavirus
relief bill also added to the gloom after House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi rejected the $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House.
"It's (U.S. stimulus) become a fairly politically charged
event, and I'm not sure that the Democrats are going to give Mr.
Trump a free kick and pass anything stimulus wise for the next
20 days," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at
The heavyweight financial sector stocks finished
about 1% lower, with the so-called "Big Four" banks closing in
"Few brokers are starting to look at the banking sector
after its big run, so I think there's a few profit takers
there," Henry Jennings, a senior analyst and portfolio manager
at Marcustoday said.
Energy stocks slid 0.9% at close, after oil prices
slipped, with Woodside Petroleum easing 1.2% and Oil
Search losing 1.7%.
Limiting losses, the healthcare sector advanced
1.3%, with the help of CSL Ltd's 1.4% gain and Sonic
Healthcare closing 2.3% firmer.
CSL lifted its FY2021 net profit to be between $2.17 bln and
$2.27 bln at constant currency, compared with its initial
forecast of $2.10 bln to $2.27 bln
Meanwhile, Sonic Healthcare marked its highest close after
reporting first-quarter core earnings of A$580 million, up from
A$340 million last year.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose
0.72% to yet another closing high of 12,543.61.
Top gainers were Mainfreight Ltd, up 5.77%,
followed by EBOS Group Ltd, gaining 3.46%.
(Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry