SYDNEY: Australian shares were little changed on Wednesday with gains in technology and healthcare segments countered by a slump in mining stocks, as worries over the economic fallout from the Omicron coronavirus variant kept investors on the edge.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.1% higher at 7,364.8 points. The benchmark had gained 0.9% on Tuesday.

Australia conducted an emergency national cabinet meeting on Wednesday where more vaccination funding was announced, as the country reported more than 5,000 daily COVID-19 infections for the first time during the pandemic.

A jump in coronavirus cases globally, just days before Christmas, has led to social mobility restrictions in some countries, threatening economic activity.

Miners were among top losers in Australia, reversing course to drop 0.4% as iron ore futures declined on possible COVID-19 curbs in China.

Global miner BHP Group Ltd slid 0.8%, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd fell 2%.

There’s some weakness in steel manufacturing and property prices in China again and markets are waking up to the fact that iron ore’s recent rally was going to be unsustainable, said Mathan Somasundaram, CEO of Deep Data Analytics.

Gold stocks eased 1%, led by a 3.7% fall in Regis Resources Ltd.

Gold miner Falcon Metals, not part of the sub-index, sank 37% in its market debut and was the top laggard on the main index.

Technology stocks closed higher for a third day, with share registry firm Link Administration Holdings Ltd leading gains on the sub-index and on the benchmark, surging 15% on accepting a C$3.2 billion ($2.48 billion) buyout offer from a Canadian company.

Health sector rose 0.8%, led by Polynovo and Pro Medicus gaining 4.8% and 2.2%, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.07% to 12,865.2 points, with pharmaceutical company EBOS Group leading the gains.


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