July 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell more than 1% in
early trade on Friday and were set for their biggest drop in
nearly three weeks, as the country's most populous state battled
a growing cluster of the highly infectious Delta variant of the
The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 1.22% to 7,252.1 by
0045 GMT after two straight sessions of gains. For the week, it
was down 0.8%.
Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei was down 1.52%, while S&P
500 E-minis futures fell 0.13%.
On Thursday, the state of New South Wales reported its
biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases of COVID-19 this
year, raising fears of a further extension in restrictions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said
Pfizer would increase COVID-19 vaccine delivery to about one
million doses a week from July 19, more than tripling shipments,
as Sydney battles its worst outbreak of this year.
Australian shares also tracked a weak finish on Wall Street.
Overnight, all three major U.S. indexes fell as doubts about
the pace of recovery in the world's biggest economy drove a
Tech stocks were the top losers in Australia with a
drop of about 2.8% and were set their worst session in more than
a week. Buy-now-pay-later company Afterpay lost 3.9%,
while artificial intelligence company Appen fell 2%.
Financials fell more than 1% and hit their lowest in
over six weeks, with the so called "big four" shedding between
1% and 1.2%.
Mining stocks slipped after two straight sessions of
gains as iron ore prices slid on demand worries. Global miners
BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost 0.5% and 0.9%,
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5%
to 12,689.7 and was poised to close the week slightly lower.
(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by