Australian shares flat as gold stocks offset gains in miners, banks

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April 26 (Reuters) – Australian shares were subdued on Monday as losses in gold miners and technology stocks were offset by gains in banks and miners that rose after iron ore prices firmed.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.13% at 7,052.20 by 0105 GMT, after having gained as much as 0.2%.

Weighing on the sentiment was a three-day snap lockdown announced on Friday in Western Australia’s capital Perth after two people tested positive for COVID-19.

The top percentage gainers on the benchmark index were NIB Holdings, up more than 13%, followed by Perpetual that gained 5.5%. Top losers were JB Hi-Fi and Silver Lake Resources, down 3% each.

Among other gainers, heavyweight miners rose 0.5% to their highest since March 4 as iron ore prices traded near record highs on strong global steel demand.

Mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto rose about 1.4% and 1%, respectively.

Banks rose 0.8% to their highest since Feb. 26, with Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and AMP Ltd gaining about 0.5% each.

Westpac added a percent to mark its third straight session of rise, after saying it expects a A$288 million ($223.14 million) net gain on its investment in cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global, offseting a hit to first-half cash earnings of A$282 million from provisions.

Gold stocks were the biggest percentage losers on the benchmark as bullion declined on strong U.S. economic data. The gold index slipped more than 2%.

De Grey Mining Ltd fell 7.5% and Evolution Mining Ltd lost 2.7%.

Technology stocks declined as much as 0.6%, reversing course from a gain of 0.4% early in the session. Xero Ltd and WiseTech Global slipped about 1% each.

In other markets, Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.14%, while S&P 500 E-minis futures slipped 0.13%.

Markets in New Zealand were closed for a holiday. ($1 = 1.2907 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)