Australian shares slide as tech stocks, Omicron worries weigh



Jan 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday as technology stocks tracked a weak finish on Wall Street in the previous session, with surging cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus denting sentiment further.

The benchmark ASX 200 index .AXJO declined 0.4% to 7,421.3 points by 2313 GMT.

Fears of a sooner-than-expected interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve dragged Wall Street on Friday, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq index dropped nearly 1%. Local technology stocks mirrored the index's move on Monday.

The tech sub-index .AXIJ shed 1.8% to hit its lowest level since June last year, dragged by Zip Co Ltd Z1P.AX and EML Payments Ltd EML.AX , losing about 3.4% and 1.6%, respectively.

Meanwhile, authorities in the country reinstated some restrictions to battle a record spike in COVID-19 infections, with an official modelling indicating that the Omicron outbreak in New South Wales could peak by January-end.

Among individual shares and sectors, the "Big Four" banks fell between 0.3% and 0.9%, while the broader financial sub-index .AXFJ fell 0.7%.

Gold stocks .AXGD followed suit, dropping 0.3%, with gold miner Northern Star Resources Ltd NST.AX declining 0.6%.

The energy sub-index .AXEJ , however, shrugged off weaker oil prices to add 0.7%.

Whitehaven Coal Ltd WHC.AX declined 1.3% to be one of the biggest pct losers on the sub-index.

Miners .AXMM also rose 1.5% on stronger iron ore and metal prices, with global iron ore miners Rio Tinto RIO.AX and BHP Group BHP.AX up 2.8% and 1.9%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 fell 0.6% to 12,899.5 points.

Media firm SKY Network Television Ltd SKT.NZ fell 2.8% to a near four-week low and headed for its fourth straight day of losses.

Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei .N225 was down 0.03%, while the S&P 500 E-minis futures EScv1 slipped 0.3%.
Reporting by Yamini C S; editing by Uttaresh.V

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