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Australia shares close over 2% lower as coronavirus cases surge in hotspot

* Tech stocks end at near 4-week low

* Victoria reports biggest daily rise in three days

* Weak oil futures pull energy stocks to over 4-month low (Updates to close)

Sept 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished at their lowest in over two months on Wednesday, following a tech-led rout on Wall Street, as a spike in infections in the country’s coronavirus hot spot Victoria weighed on sentiment.

Victoria on Wednesday reported its biggest rise in daily cases in three days as the state boosted its contact tracing programme to ease the spread of the virus.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.2% to 5,878.6 at the close of trade, its lowest since June 30.

That follows Wall Street’s overnight losses as heavy-weight technology companies tumbled for a third straight session and sent the Nasdaq into correction territory.

“I’m more and more certain that we have seen the peak particularly in U.S. tech stocks, and they were the only things holding up the broader market,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

“And naturally Australia is going to sell-off in sympathy with that.”

Local tech stocks fell 2.4%, with Afterpay giving up 1.3% and accounting software firm Xero shedding 2.1%.

Also hurting sentiment was news that AstraZeneca, a front runner in the global COVID-19 vaccine race, said it had paused a late-stage trial of its vaccine candidate following an unexplained illness in a study participant.

However, the Australian deputy chief medical officer Nick Coatsworth said the country was not worried about the pause in the trials.

Energy stocks, down 4.7%, led declines as oil prices extended their steep losses into Wednesday.

Woodside Petroleum tumbled 4.4%, while Santos fell 5.4% and were the biggest drags on the sub-index.

Top lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp were the biggest percentage losers among financials, down 2.5% and 3.3%, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 1.3% to finish the session at 11,739.11, with financials and utilities tumbling the most.

Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel

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