Australia shares end higher on tech surge, virus slowdown optimism

* Tech stocks finish at all-time high

* Effective unemployment forecast weighs

* NZ extends Auckland lockdown (Updates to close)

Aug 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares settled higher on Monday, with tech stocks ending at a record peak while a significant slowdown in fresh daily coronavirus cases fuelled hopes that a deadly second wave may be on the wane.

The country’s second-most populous state of Victoria reported its smallest daily rise in fresh COVID-19 cases in seven weeks following strict lockdown curbs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 6,129.60, snapping two straight sessions of losses.

However, investor optimism was dulled to a degree by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s forecast that effective unemployment in Australia would breach 13% by the end of September amid lockdowns.

“Though real unemployment rates are likely a lot higher, government payments, including JobKeeper and JobSeeker, have kept people employed but can’t go on forever,” said Simon Herrmann, an equity analyst at

“There are significant risks to the real economy but the stock-market party continues as if nothing has happened, that can’t be healthy in the long run.”

Technology stocks jumped 3.2%, tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite’s record finish on Friday.

Afterpay, the biggest stock on the sub-index, advanced 4.8% after the buy-now-pay later firm said it would acquire Spain-based Pagantis and expand into Europe.

Heavyweight miners tacked on 0.6%, with Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Group adding 3.2% and 0.6%, respectively.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia eased 1%, making it the biggest loser among financials. The rest of the “Big Four” banks also ended lower.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.7% to finish the session at 11,921.07.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a coronavirus lockdown in Auckland until the end of the week in a bid to enable the country to gradually rollback its scale of emergency restrictions. (Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)