Jan 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares dropped on Thursday, as
technology stocks tracked overnight losses on the Nasdaq index
after minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting
signalled that the U.S. central bank may raise interest rates
sooner than expected.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.8% at 7,504.8 by
2343 GMT, after settling 0.3% lower on Wednesday.
Technology stocks fell as much as 4.3% to hit their
lowest since July last year, with buy now, pay later bellwether
Afterpay sinking 11% to its lowest since Sept. 14,
Novonix Ltd and Altium Ltd dropped 3.3%
and 4.4%, respectively.
Major indexes on Wall Street ended sharply lower after
minutes from the Fed's meeting offered details on its shift last
month toward a more hawkish monetary policy.
"With both the inflation and employment goals of the Fed
pretty much met, we are very close to the point of rate hikes,"
analysts at ING Economics said in a note.
"We suspect March is too early for a rate hike, given the
lack of visibility caused by Omicron, but May is clearly on the
cards," they added.
The heavyweight financial sub-index fell 0.6%,
driven lower by losses in the "Big Four" banks.
Gold explorers slid 1.7%, underpinned by weaker
bullion prices. Newcrest Mining declined as much as
2.2% to post its biggest intraday loss since Dec. 15, 2021.
Separately, digital payments and lending firm Latitude Group
Holdings offered to buy Humm Group's consumer
unit, including its buy now, pay later business, for A$335
million ($241.8 million).
Miners advanced 0.4%, benefiting from strong iron
ore prices. Rio Tinto rose as much as 2.8% to its
highest since October last year.
Meanwhile, daily COVID-19 cases hit a record for a third day
on Wednesday. Officials reported a record 64,774 new cases,
exceeding Tuesday's tally of around 47,800.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell
0.8% to 13043.34.
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; editing by