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Australia shares recover on financial, tech boost

May 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares on Thursday recovered slightly from the heavy sell-off in the previous session, with bank and technology stocks leading gains, though a drop in commodity prices weighed on miners and energy sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3% at 6,952.1 points by 0030 GMT. The benchmark shed 1.9% on Wednesday, its lowest close in April 7.

IT stocks gained as much as 2.7%, with buy-now-pay-later giant Afterpay Ltd rising 3.1% and Appen Ltd surging for a second session after the artificial intelligence company announced restructuring plans.

EML Payments rose 15.4%, and was the top gainer in the benchmark and the tech sub-index, a day after the payments solutions provider tumbled 50% on fears of regulatory curbs on its Irish unit.

Financial stocks also saw gains, with the so-called “Big Four” banks trading in positive territory.

Miners were the biggest losers in the benchmark, dropping 2% to hit a more than two-week low on the back of a drop in Chinese iron ore futures.

Global miners Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Ltd dropped 1.7% each.

Energy stocks also fell as crude shed $2 on concerns over rising COVID-19 cases in Asia. Oil and gas explorers Santos Ltd and Woodside Petroleum slipped.

Healthcare stocks gained as much as 1.2% and eyed their best session in one week, with biotech major CSL Ltd gaining 1.2%.

Meanwhile, Qantas Airways Ltd jumped 3% to be among top gainers in the index as the Australian carrier laid out more cost-cutting measures in an effort to weather the COVID-19 crisis.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6% to 12,354.56 points.

Investors turn their attention to the country’s budget, due later in the day, where the government is expected to target its spending on tackling issues of rising homelessness and inequality.

$1 = 1.2953 Australian dollars Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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