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Australia shares snap 5-day rally as vaccine rollout suffers setback

April 9 (Reuters) – Australian shares dipped on Friday, losing steam after a five-day winning streak, as setbacks to the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans weighed on healthcare stocks, while weak iron ore prices pressured miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.2% at 6,985.4 points in early trade. The benchmark climbed more than 2% for the week and was poised for its third straight weekly gain.

Healthcare stocks shed more than 1% to hit a two-week low, with heavyweight CSL Ltd falling 1.3%.

The Australian government held a meeting with state and territory leaders following an abrupt policy shift that recommended people under 50 to take Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca’s shot.

The ASX 300 metals and mining index dipped 0.2% as iron ore prices inched lower in the previous session. BHP Group Ltd shed nearly 1%.

Energy stocks edged 0.1​% lower on flat crude prices, led by Beach Energy Ltd, which dropped 2%.

Bucking the sombre mood, technology stocks rose 1.02%, tracking solid overnight gains in their U.S. peers that led to the S&P 500 closing at a record high.

Afterpay Ltd climbed 3.12%, while EML Payments Ltd gained 1.22%.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2% to 12,613.8, with healthcare and financials losing the most.

Pacific Edge Ltd jumped more than 30% after the company said its bladder cancer diagnostic tests are now covered by U.S. insurance giant United Healthcare.

(Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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