Australian Market Modestly Lower

The Australian stock market is modestly lower in choppy trading on Monday, giving up gains in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 staying above the 7,200 level, following the broadly negative cues from Wall Street on Friday, with weakness in technology and materials stocks partially offset by strength in gold miners and energy stocks.

Concern that the coronavirus Omicron variant will set back the fight against COVID-19 is also weighing down the market.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 24.60 points or 0.34 percent to 7,216.6, after hitting a low of 7,213.30 and a high of 7,251.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 35.50 points or 0.47 percent to 7,508.10. Australian stocks closed slightly higher on Friday.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is losing more than 1 percent, Mineral Resources is down almost 1 percent, BHP Group is declining more than 1 percent and OZ Minerals is edging down 0.2 percent, while Fortescue Metals is edging up 0.3 percent.

Oil stocks are mostly higher, with Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum gaining more than 1 percent each, while Origin Energy is edging up 0.2 percent and Santos adding almost 1 percent. Beach energy is edging down 0.4 percent.

Among tech stocks, WiseTech Global is losing almost 1 percent, Xero is down more than 2 percent and Appen is slipping more than 3 percent. Afterpay is declining almost 5 percent after it will hold the shareholder vote next week on whether to accept a $39 billion takeover bid from Square.

Gold miners are higher. Evolution Mining is gaining more than 2 percent, Gold Road Resources is adding almost 3 percent, Resolute Mining is up almost 1 percent, Newcrest Mining is rising more than 1 percent and Northern Star Resources is advancing more than 3 percent.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are flat, while ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are edging down 0.3 percent each.

Shares in Boral are adding almost 4 percent after completing its exit from the US market with the sale of its US fly ash business for around $1 billion to Eco Material Technologies.

Shares in Bapcor are declining more than 5 percent after the car parts seller and Autobarn operator was forced to advance the exit date for longstanding chief executive Darryl Abotomey.

Shares in Metcash are surging more than 5 percent after the grocery wholesaler reported an increase in first half net profit.

In the currency market, the Aussie dollar is trading at $0.702 on Monday.

On Wall Street, stocks moved back to the downside during trading on Friday following the rally seen in the previous session. The tech-heavy Nasdaq showed a particularly steep drop, tumbling to its lowest closing level in well over a month.

The Nasdaq plunged 295.85 points or 1.9 percent to 15,085.47 and the S&P 500 slid 38.67 points or 0.8 percent to 4,538.43, while the narrower Dow climbed well off its worst levels but still closed down 59.71 points or 0.2 percent at 34,580.08.

The major European markets also moved to the downside over the course of the session. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures pared early gains and settled lower Friday amid uncertainty about the outlook for energy demand due to fresh restrictions following the spread of the new coronavirus variant Omicron in several countries. West Texas Intermediate Crude oil futures for January ended down by $0.24 or 0.4 percent at $66.26 a barrel.

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