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Australia shares end higher on tech surge, virus slowdown optimism

* Tech stocks finish at all-time high

* Effective unemployment forecast weighs

* NZ extends Auckland lockdown (Updates to close)

Aug 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares settled higher on Monday, with tech stocks ending at a record peak while a significant slowdown in fresh daily coronavirus cases fuelled hopes that a deadly second wave may be on the wane.

The country’s second-most populous state of Victoria reported its smallest daily rise in fresh COVID-19 cases in seven weeks following strict lockdown curbs.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.3% to 6,129.60, snapping two straight sessions of losses.

However, investor optimism was dulled to a degree by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s forecast that effective unemployment in Australia would breach 13% by the end of September amid lockdowns.

“Though real unemployment rates are likely a lot higher, government payments, including JobKeeper and JobSeeker, have kept people employed but can’t go on forever,” said Simon Herrmann, an equity analyst at Wise-Owl.com.

“There are significant risks to the real economy but the stock-market party continues as if nothing has happened, that can’t be healthy in the long run.”

Technology stocks jumped 3.2%, tracking the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite’s record finish on Friday.

Afterpay, the biggest stock on the sub-index, advanced 4.8% after the buy-now-pay later firm said it would acquire Spain-based Pagantis and expand into Europe.

Heavyweight miners tacked on 0.6%, with Fortescue Metals Group and BHP Group adding 3.2% and 0.6%, respectively.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia eased 1%, making it the biggest loser among financials. The rest of the “Big Four” banks also ended lower.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index climbed 0.7% to finish the session at 11,921.07.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a coronavirus lockdown in Auckland until the end of the week in a bid to enable the country to gradually rollback its scale of emergency restrictions. (Reporting by Arpit Nayak in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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