Australian shares closed slightly higher on Monday, as upbeat comments from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on the economic prospects for 2022 offset some worries surrounding the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.05% higher at 7,245.1, with gains in the energy and gold sectors offsetting losses in technology and mining . The benchmark rose 0.2% on Friday.
Frydenberg on Sunday said Australia will raise its 2022 economic growth forecast at the mid-year budget review, adding that it is too early to estimate the impact from Omicron on the economic outlook.
Rising cases in Sydney and other cities have forced some regions to tighten their domestic border controls, with the country reporting its first community transmission of Omicron on Friday.
"There is a little bit of risk-off sentiment at the moment ... traders are just happy to take some profits and set up shop for the year," said Henry Jennings, senior investment analyst at Marcustoday Financial newsletter. Investors were also awaiting the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) meeting on Tuesday, where the cash rate is expected to be held at 0.10%.
Gold explorers rose 1.9%, benefiting from a jump in bullion prices, with Northern Star Resources jumping 3.2% to its best session in more than three weeks.
Energy stocks also rose, underpinned by firmer oil prices, with Santos and Woodside Petroleum gaining 1.4% and 0.8%, respectively.
Technology stocks dropped 2.2%, with aerial imagery firm Nearmap falling 7.1% to end at its lowest since April 2020.
Afterpay extended losses to close at a six-month low, while peer Zip Co Ltd hit its weakest in more than 18 months, the biggest percentage decliner on the ASX 200.
Heavyweight miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group fell 1.8% and 1.6%, respectively.
New Zealand's benchmark 50 index .NZ50 finished the session 0.6% lower at 12,597.81.
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath)