* Energy stocks mark worst day in over one week
* Nuix worst performer in the benchmark index
* Gold stocks gain on higher bullion prices
May 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares retreated on Monday
after hitting a record high earlier in the session, as COVID-19
cases in the populous state of Victoria continued to swell while
investors awaited signs of hawkishness in the central bank
meeting due this week.
The S&P/ASX 200 index, which crossed the 7,200 mark
for the first time ever, closed 0.3% lower at 7,161.6. The index
secured an eighth straight monthly gain in May.
Victoria, the epicentre of Australia's latest coronavirus
hotspot, reported 11 new cases of community transmission, taking
the current cluster to 51. The state's Acting Premier James
Merlino warned that the next few days will be "critical".
Energy stocks, which gained 2.2% over the previous
week, were the worst performers on the benchmark. The sub-index
closed 1.6% lower and marked its worst session in more than a
The Australian central bank is expected to hold rates on
Tuesday at record low for a sixth straight meeting, while the
vast majority of the respondents expect no change to the cash
rate until mid-2023.
"In last few weeks, we have seen the Bank of Canada and the
Reserve Bank of New Zealand start to move a little away from
their very accommodative stances. With Australia, it probably
won't happen this time, but will be interesting to watch out for
some of the wordings," said Damian Rooney from Argonaut.
Financials closed 0.6% lower, with the so-called
"Big Four" banks closing in the red.
Tech stocks were dragged lower by losses in Link
Administration and Nuix Ltd.
Link, PEXA's largest shareholder, ended 6.2% lower after the
company said it would take the online real-estate firm public.
Macquarie-backed Nuix sunk to yet another record low after
cutting its outlook for the second time in a little over five
Domestic gold stocks, however, rose 1.5% on the back of
strong bullion prices, with heavyweight Newcrest Mining Ltd
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 1.1%
higher at 12,320.72.
A2 Milk Company dropped 23.4% in May, their worst
monthly decline since early 2009, as the dairy producer slashed
its annual 2021 sales forecast for the third time earlier this
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry