* Bega Cheese top drag on ASX200
* Health stocks post fourth straight session of gains
* Tech stocks snap three-day winning streak
Dec 23 (Reuters) - Gold and financial stocks helped
Australian shares close higher on Thursday, as investor
sentiment improved after two research studies showed Omicron was
less lethal compared with the Delta coronavirus variant.
The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 7,387.6 points,
closing in the green for a third consecutive day. The benchmark
had gained 0.1% on Wednesday.
While Australia reported more than 8,200 new cases, two
separate studies in South Africa and London suggested the risk
of hospitalisation from the Omicron variant was less severe
compared with the Delta variant.
The heavyweight financial index rose 0.6%, with the
country's "Big Four" banks ending up between 0.3% and 0.6%.
Gold miners rose 1.3% as the yellow metal was poised
for a second straight weekly gain. Dacian Gold Ltd and
Tietto Minerals Ltd jumped 8.6% and 7.2%,
Miners, which comprise a third of the benchmark,
ended 0.3% higher as metal prices strengthened on supply
However, iron ore majors Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP
Group shed 0.1% and 0.3%, respectively.
Health stocks, up 0.5%, advanced for a fourth
straight session, with diagnostics firm Sonic Healthcare
among top gainers.
Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial
Newsletter said that increased demand for COVID-19 tests would
be good for pathology laboratories as people travel across
states around the festival season.
The tech sector was the only drag on the market as
it ended 0.9% lower, snapping a three-day winning streak, with
WiseTech Global falling the most.
Dairy firm Bega Cheese tumbled 10.3% and was the
top decliner on the benchmark after warning of profit hit from
strong domestic competition.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index remained flat at 12,862.71 points.
(Reporting by Dhriti Garg in Bengaluru;
Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)