Gold rally drives Australia shares higher

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Feb 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged up on Monday, supported by a jump in gold stocks after rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine spurred demand for safe-haven bullion, although a fall in technology stocks kept gains in check.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) was up 0.4% at 7,242.3, as of 0002 GMT. The benchmark closed 1% lower on Friday.

Comments from the country's top central banker that rate hikes may start later this year kept a cap on risk appetite. read more

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Global markets have been rattled by the possibility that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time. read more

Among sub-indexes, Australian gold stocks (.AXJO) led the gains, jumping as much as 6.2% to their highest level in three weeks, as bullion prices hit a near two-month peak. Index heavyweight Newcrest Mining (NCM.AX) climbed more than 5%.

Bullion is considered a hedge against soaring inflation and often used as a safe store of value during times of political and financial uncertainty.

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) were up nearly 3%, tracking an uptick in oil prices as escalating fears of an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a top energy producer, added to concerns over tight global crude supplies.

Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) and Santos (STO.AX) rose 3.3% and 4%, respectively.

The benchmark was also aided by a jump in shares of Beach Energy (BPT.AX) after the oil and gas explorer said its half-year profit surged 66% on the back of firmer oil prices.

On the downside, domestic tech stocks (.AXIJ) fell 1%, tracking U.S. peers as Wall Street ended the previous session sharply lower amid Russia-Ukraine tensions. Australia's software firm Wisetech Global (WTC.AX) shed 2.7% on Monday.

Ledger electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi (JBH.AX) fell to its lowest level since last August after a disappointing earnings report.

In New Zealand, the benchmark (.NZ50) was down 1% at 12,049.32 points, as of 0002 GMT.

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Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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