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Australia shares dip on Sydney restrictions, NZ inches down

* ASX200 off 7% from Feb record high; set to end year nearly flat

* Sydney restrictions dent hopes for NYE spending boost

* Gold miners rebound after sharp falls on Tuesday

Dec 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched lower on Thursday as concerns over the economic impact of stricter curbs in Sydney ahead of New Year’s eve celebrations outweighed optimism from an upbeat session on Wall Street overnight.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.2% by 2332 GMT and was on track to end 2020 just around 0.1% lower despite sharp falls earlier in the year. The performance, however, was a sharp contrast to a gain of 18.4% it clocked last year.

The benchmark stood at 6,672, still off about 7% from the record high it hit in February before the coronavirus outbreak roiled markets and ravaged economies across the globe.

The New South Wales government restricted household and public gatherings in the country’s most populous city ahead of Dec. 31 celebrations, an event that normally garners higher consumer spending.

Among individual sectors and shares, the heavyweight financial sub-index slipped 0.7%, with three of the “Big Four” banks shedding between 0.2% and 0.5%.

Healthcare stocks were the worst performers for the session, with almost all companies on the sub-index clocking losses. U.S.-based Resmed Inc fell more than 1%, while sector heavyweight CSL shed 0.8%.

Technology stocks were a bright spot as they rose up to 0.9% tracking Wall Street peers. Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay Ltd and NZ-based software as a service company Xero Ltd both gained 0.8%.

Gold stocks rebounded from sharp falls in the previous session, rising nearly 1.3%, as gold prices edged higher on expectations of higher U.S pandemic aid which pushed the dollar to its lowest in more than two years.

Top gold miners Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining both gained more than 1%, hitting their highest in a week.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.1% to 13,199.1. Meridian Energy slipped 4.2%, hitting its lowest in nearly three weeks. (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)

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