Australian shares weighed down by banking, healthcare stocks

Feb 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Monday, as losses in the banking and healthcare sectors offset gains made by energy and mining firms, while travel stocks gained as the country geared up to reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists later in the month.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) closed 0.1% lower at 7,110.80, recouping losses after declining nearly 1% earlier in the day.

Banks (.AXFJ) slipped 0.4%, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX) losing as much as 5.4% to its lowest in nearly a year after the country's no. 4 lender flagged margin pressures and hit from "softer" performance in its markets business. read more

"Last week provided robust start to February as we head into the reporting season," said Steven Daghlian, a market analyst at CommSec, adding that the financial sector would be in focus this week with major banks coming up with their earning updates.

Healthcare stocks (.AXHJ) were also among the top drags to the benchmark, losing 1.3%, led by biotech major CSL Ltd , which declined 1.6%.

Meanwhile, data showed Australian retail sales surged by a record in the December quarter as the end of coronavirus lockdowns unleashed a wave of pent-up spending, adding to the risk of rate rises.

"Inflation has been strong so far this year and markets are just getting used to the idea of interest rates rising and stimulus being paid back," Steven said.

Among gainers, energy stocks (.AXEJ) soared 1.6% after worries about supply disruptions pushed crude oil prices to their seven-year high on Friday. Woodside Petroleum Ltd (WPL.AX) and Santos Ltd (STO.AX) advanced 1.9% and 1.6%, respectively.

Travel stocks jumped after the Australian government said it would fully reopen its borders to all vaccinated visa holders from Feb. 21, nearly two years after the borders were shut to non-citizens. read more

Flight Centre Travel Group (FLT.AX) gained 7.8% and Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) firmed 4.6%.

Miners (.AXMM) climbed 0.8%, with BHP Group Ltd (BHP.AX) and Fortescue (FMG.AX) advancing 1.2% and 0.9%, respectively.

Markets in New Zealand (.NZ50) were closed for a holiday.

Reporting by Himanshi Akhand in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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