Australian shares fall as Iress, miners drag

Sept 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday, dragged by mining stocks and a drop in software firm Iress IRE.AX after it rejected a buyout bid, with worries of higher COVID-19 cases denting sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO fell 0.72% to 7,406.3 by 0019 GMT.

Australia's second-largest state reported its second-highest daily rise in new infections this year, even as Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged more freedom for vaccinated citizens.

The top percentage loser on the benchmark index was Iress Ltd IRE.AX , down nearly 10%, after the company rejected a buyout offer from Swedish private equity firm EQT for the third time.

Mining stocks .AXMM tracked a near 4% drop in iron ore prices to shed 3.81%. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd's FMG.AX 7.83% drop led the decline, followed by SSR Mining Inc SSR.AX that lost 7.73%.

Gold stocks .AXGD fell 3.93%, with sector heavyweight Newcrest Mining NCM.AX dropping over 3% as bullion prices retreated on dollar strength and fears of an early tapering by the U.S. Federal Reserve.

The energy index .AXEJ fell 1.66​%, as oil prices steadied overnight after hitting a multi-week high a day earlier.

Technology stocks .AXIJ , however, rose 1.52%. Afterpay Ltd APT.AX jumped 3.33%, followed by Altium Ltd ALU.AX , up 2.49%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.59% to 13,156.4.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei .N225 was up 0.18% at 30,377.9 while S&P 500 E-minis futures EScv1 were down 8.75 points, or 0.2%.

Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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