Dec 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares swung between positive
and negative territory on Wednesday, as losses in banks and gold
explorers countered gains made by miners and technology stocks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was flat at 7,355.2 by 2344
GMT, after notching its best session in two weeks on Tuesday.
The Australian central bank is optimistic that Omicron will
not derail the country's economic recovery, though the rapidly
spreading coronavirus variant has rattled global equity markets
in recent weeks.
Technology stocks tracked Wall Street higher, rising
as much as 1.8%. Buy now, pay later giant Afterpay
jumped 6.6% in its best intraday session since Aug. 3.
Miners advanced 0.4%, underpinned by strong iron ore
BHP Group said it would not match a takeover offer
by billionaire Andrew Forrest's Wyloo Metals for Noront
Resources Ltd, essentially bowing out from a months-long
tussle for the Canadian nickel miner.
Meanwhile, Rio Tinto said it would buy the Rincon
lithium project in Argentina for $825 million to build its
battery materials business. Shares of the miner were down 0.8%.
Healthcare stocks climbed, led by a 1.5% jump in
biotechnology giant CSL Ltd. Energy stocks rose
0.9% on the back of firmer oil prices, with Whitehaven Coal
and Paladin Energy adding 3.3% and 1.8%
Heavyweight financials fell as much as 0.4%, with
three of the so-called "Big Four" banks trading in negative
Weakness in gold prices weighed on the ASX-listed explorers
of the metal, with Newcrest Mining and Northern Star
Resources both shedding more than 1%.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down
0.5% at 12,798.19.
On Tuesday, the country postponed its phased border
re-opening plans until the end of February over concerns about
the rapid global spread of the Omicron variant.
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by