* Tech stocks end up 2.8%, biggest gainer on ASX200
* Challenger jumps 8.8%, leads gains on benchmark
* Energy stocks tumble nearly 2%
July 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed at their highest
level in more than two weeks on Wednesday, as technology and
health stocks rallied, though the gains were capped by losses in
oil and gas companies.
After rising nearly 1% during the session, the S&P/ASX 200
index ended up 0.9% at 7,326.9, its highest since June
Tech stocks jumped 2.8%, tracking a record-high
close on the Nasdaq overnight. Buy-now-pay-later firm
Afterpay led gains on the tech sub-index, surging 4.6%.
The health sub-index climbed 1.7%, with hearing
implant maker Cochlear Ltd finishing 4.4% higher to be
the biggest gainer on the sub-index. Sector heavy-weight CSL Ltd
ended up 1.4%.
Energy stocks, however, tumbled 1.9%, led by
Whitehaven Coal Ltd that shed 4.23%. Worley Ltd
followed suit with its 2.93% drop.
Oil prices suffered from a cancellation of OPEC+ talks that
raised the prospect that the world's major crude exporters will
turn on the taps to gain market share.
Meanwhile, New South Wales state ordered a week-long
extension of Sydney's COVID-19 lockdown, warning that new cases
are bound to rise as the city grapples with the highly
infectious Delta variant.
Among individual stocks, fund manager Challenger Ltd
led gains on the benchmark, finishing 8.8% higher as
retirement services provider Athene Holding and
private-equity firm Apollo Global Management acquired up
to 18% in the company.
In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.09%
(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by