Australian shares drop on virus woes; gold, tech stocks plunge

Aug 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares snapped a three-day winning streak on Thursday, with gold and technology stocks leading the declines, after the country’s most populous city hit a record for new COVID-19 infections.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.66% to 7,482.3 by 0112 GMT, with weakness in almost all sectors. The benchmark had closed 0.4% higher on Wednesday, marking a continuity in its rebound from a tumultuous past week.

Sydney, Australia’s largest city, hit a daily record of 919 cases on Wednesday. It is still struggling to stamp out an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant even after two months under a hard lockdown.

Among individual sectors and stocks, the gold index was among the top losers, falling 2.43% after bullion prices fell more than 1% overnight.

Gold miner Pantoro Ltd led losses on the sub-index, skidding 5.13%, followed by Newcrest Mining Ltd that lost 3.09%.

Technology stocks fell 1.34%. Appen Ltd led losses on the sub-index, skidding as much as 17.9%, followed by Link Administration Holdings Ltd, down 8.35%.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) firm Appen Ltd reported a 35% slump in its underlying net profit after tax for half year, while Link Administration also reported lacklustre annual results.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.54% to 13,102.7.

Shares of a2 Milk skidded up to 12.7%, marking their worst day in over three months after reporting a full-year profit slump of nearly 80%.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.08% at 27746.2 points, while S&P 500 E-minis futures were down 0.1%. (Reporting by Riya Sharma in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)