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Tech, banks drag Australia shares lower as states enter lockdown

June 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday, weighed down by banking and technology stocks, as investors fretted tighter lockdown curbs after the country over the weekend reported one of the highest numbers for locally acquired coronavirus cases this year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.3% at 7,286 points, as of 0026 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.5% higher on Friday.

Sydney began a two-week lockdown on Sunday as the Bondi neighbourhood cluster of the highly infectious coronavirus Delta variant rose to 110 in Australia’s largest city, while an outbreak in the northern city of Darwin prompted a hard two-day stay-at-home order.

Movement restrictions sent travel and tourism stocks sharply lower. Flag carrier Qantas and travel agent Flight Centre Travel Group were both down around 4%.

Technology stocks were the top drag with a decline of 2%. Afterpay Ltd led with a 4.1% slump, followed by Nuix Ltd losing 2.4% to touch a record low.

Financial stocks dropped 0.6%, with the so-called “Big Four” banks shedding between 0.6% and 2.5%.

Shares of Westpac touched their lowest since May 21 after the Australian lender said it would sell its auto finance business to U.S. private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, as it seeks to focus on its core banking operations.

Despite a slight rise in bullion prices, the gold sub-index fell 1.1%, with Gold Road Resources Ltd leading losses after the company lowered its production forecast for the June quarter.

On the upside, energy stocks rose 0.6%, tracking an uptick in oil prices. Sector heavyweights Woodside Petroleum and Santos gained 0.4% and 1.1%, respectively.

Stronger iron ore prices sent the mining sub-index 0.2% higher. BHP Group added 0.8% while Fortescue Metals Group jumped 0.5%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.12% to 12,610.5. Fonterra, however, gained nearly 2% after the dairy producer said it will sell its stakes in two joint-venture farms in China’s Shandong province. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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