* CBA, Woodside Petroleum due to report earnings next week
* Bullion prices help gold stocks surge
* Victoria reports record rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths
Aug 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on
Wednesday as investors stayed away from risky bets ahead of the
corporate earnings season, while a spike in domestic COVID-19
cases continued to bruise risk sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.6% at 6,001.3
points at the close of trade.
Crucial earnings filings by top lenders such as Commonwealth
Bank and National Australia Bank, and energy
giants AGL Energy and Woodside Petroleum, are
slated to come in starting this week.
"We've been through a 'confession season' with more than
half of the top companies having pushed guidance down or
withdrawn it altogether ... as a result we are going in blind
into this earnings season," said Michael McCarthy, chief market
strategist at CMC Markets.
"The (virus-related) numbers from Victoria today were quite
high again, another reason to be cautious."
Victoria, the country's second-most populous state, reported
a record rise in fresh COVID-19 cases and deaths on Wednesday,
even as it prepared to close much of its economy to control a
second wave of infection.
Adding to the market's uncertainty, leading economies United
States and China said they would review the implementation of
their Phase 1 trade deal in a video-conference on Aug. 15.
"The tension in that (Sino-U.S.) relationship has been
growing for the past few weeks, and with the two largest
economies at loggerheads the rest of the world is unlikely to go
well," McCarthy added.
Financials dropped 0.8%, with three of the 'Big
Four' banks falling in the range of 0.3% to 1.3%.
The sub-index for healthcare stocks receded more
than a percent, with heavyweight CSL Ltd losing 1.8%.
Industrial stocks were down 1.5%, dragged by losses
among the likes of Transurban Group and Sydney Airport
Holdings, down 1.4% and 2.3%.
Bucking the tepid trend, gold stocks surged about
3%, as prices of the underlying yellow metal scaled an all-time
peak, helped by bets for more stimulus measures against the
pandemic-ravaged global economy.
The country's largest independent gold miner Newcrest Mining
Ltd jumped 2.9%.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index ended 0.1% lower at 11,757.7 points, hurt by
financial and healthcare stocks.
(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry