Australia shares weighed by banks amid coronavirus lockdowns

July 1 (Reuters) - Banks pressured Australian shares on Thursday as lockdowns to curb the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus remained in place.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4% to 7,285.1 points on the first day of the new financial year. The benchmark rose 0.2% on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei was down 0.1%, while S&P 500 E-minis futures gained 0.2%.

In the past few days, major cities, including Sydney, Perth and Brisbane, have gone into a lockdown. Around one-in-two Australians are now under stay-at-home orders and millions of others subjected to movement curbs and mandatory mask-wearing.

The financial index was the top percentage loser on the bourse, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia shedding 0.7%, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp dropping 0.6%.

Gold stocks gained the most among sectors, up 1%, benefiting from firmer bullion prices.

Geopacific Resources added as much as 12.2% and was the top percentage gainer on the sub-index, while Newcrest Mining gained 0.8%.

Australia’s top power producer rose 1.6%. Its shares fell 10% in the previous session as the company outlined plans to split into a bulk power generator and a carbon-neutral energy retailer by June 2022 as well as stop paying special dividends.

Technology stocks took their cue from a weak overnight session on the tech-heavy Nasdaq and fell 0.1%

Software maker Altium Ltd lost 0.5% and software solutions provider WiseTech Global fell 0.8%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 12,651.1.

Pushpay Holdings Ltd and Z Energy Ltd were the top percentage losers on the index.

Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel