Australia shares slip as new community Omicron case weighs; focus on GDP data

Australian shares edged lower on Wednesday, as the first confirmed community case of the Omicron coronavirus variant stoked fears of reimposition of restrictions and delay an economic recovery, ahead of third quarter GDP data.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) lost 0.35% at 7,230.7 by 2351 GMT. The benchmark gained 0.22% on Tuesday.

Australian authorities confirmed a person with COVID-19 had the new Omicron variant after disclosing that the person had been active in the community on Tuesday.

Fears were also exacerbated by vaccine maker Moderna's (MRNA) chief executive officer saying vaccines are likely to be less effective against the new variant, further fuelling a global selloff.

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) tumbled as much as 1.25%, tracking a 6.2% drop in U.S. crude futures overnight.

Woodside Petroleum (WPL) and Santos (STO) shed as much as 1.6% and 1.7%, respectively.

The country's fourth largest lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) shed as much as 0.9% after it revealed a class action proceeding had been filed against it, relating to some "unfair" credit card contracts.

The financial sector (.AXFJ) lost 0.5%, with other top lenders remaining mixed.

Bucking the trend, metals and mining stocks (.AXMM) rose as much as 1.1% after benchmark iron ore contracts soared late on Tuesday.

Major miners BHP Group (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO) and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) all advanced between 1.2% and 1.7% each.

Australia's third quarter GDP data, which is due at 0030 GMT, is likely to contract as fresh lockdowns weighed on consumer spending and investments, but the extent of the fall was milder than the historic recession recorded last year, a Reuters poll showed.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (NZ50G) lost 0.18% at 12,696.06, as at 2338 GMT.

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