(Corrects closing level to 0.5% and 6,132, not 0.4% and
6.126.60, in second paragraph)
* Caution about the fate of U.S. stimulus kept investors
* ASX benchmark propped up by tech, financials
* Further slide in oil prices dents energy stocks
Oct 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed marginally
higher on Monday, with the technology index at a record high,
although investors refused to make big bets awaiting hints on
additional U.S. stimulus.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.5% higher at 6,132.
The benchmark ended flat on Friday.
The U.S. markets will be closed on Monday on account of
Columbus Day, but all eyes are on the likelihood of additional
stimulus as the world's largest economy struggles to recover
from coronavirus-related lockdowns that threw millions of
Americans out of work.
"The U.S. will be closed Monday for a holiday, so we
normally are very flat until we see some U.S. futures numbers to
get a lead on the market direction," said Brad Smoling, managing
director at Smoling Stockbroking.
On Sunday, the White House called on Congress to pass a
stripped-down coronavirus relief bill, promising further
negotiations on a comprehensive bill in the future.
The Democrats dismissed the proposal as "inadequate" - the
latest twist in on-again, off-again talks to try to secure more
"The stimulus game is still being played out in the U.S.
right now and we don't know how big or small it will be. We are
just assuming that it will be something," Smoling said.
Back home, the Australian technology index climbed
as much as 2.9% to a record high.
Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay finished nearly 3%
higher while Nearmap closed over 2% firmer.
The heavyweight financial sector gained 1% at close,
with the so-called "Big Four" banks closing more than 1% higher.
Dragging the benchmark lower, the energy index
finished 0.8% weaker, dented by a further slide in oil prices.
Whitehaven Coal ended about 6% lower, while Origin
Energy Ltd lost 2%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index
finished 0.6% higher at 12,356.89.
Top gainers were Contact Energy Ltd up 3.2%,
followed by Mercury NZ advancing 2.8%.
(Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry