Australian shares reverse course to drop on U.S. inflation data

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March 11 (Reuters) - Australian shares gave up early gains to trade lower on Friday, as sentiments were dampened by red-hot U.S. inflation data that led the country's stocks to slide overnight, with soft commodity prices pressuring local energy and gold stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) was down 0.3% at 7,108.80 by 0000 GMT. The benchmark was on track for a 0.2% weekly fall, if losses hold.

A four-decade high inflation data from the U.S. cemented expectations that its Federal Reserve would hike key interest rates at the conclusion of next week's monetary policy meeting to prevent the economy from overheating. read more

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Back home, Australia's top central banker on Friday cautioned borrowers it would be prudent to prepare for a rise in interest rates this year with inflation set to increase due to the recent surge in global commodity prices. read more

Losses in tech stocks (.AXIJ) weighed on the benchmark, down 2.2%, tracking a negative finish in its Wall Street peers. Australia-listed shares of Block Inc fell 2.7% to the bottom of the sub-index.

Oil prices fell, dragging the energy sub-index (.AXEJ) down as much as 0.8%. Fuel refiner Viva Energy (VEA.AX) slipped 0.9%, while sector major Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) lost 1%.

Financials (.AXFJ) reversed early gains to fall 0.4%, breaking a three-day rally. However, top banks were trading 0.3% and 0.9% higher.

Australian miners (.AXMM) were the only bright spot, up about 2%, and notching their sharpest gain since March 3 despite declining iron ore prices.

The country's top miners Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), BHP Group (BHP.AX) and Fortescue Metals (FMG.AX) gained between 2.1% and 3%.

Separately, Nickel Mines (NIC.AX) was the top gainer on the benchmark with a 5.3% jump. The company announced a withdrawal of its A$18 million ($13.26 million) share purchase plan citing market conditions.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) fell 0.2% to 11,901.04 points and was on track to drop about 2% for the week. If losses hold, the benchmark is on track to suffer its worst week in six.

($1 = 1.3578 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru

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