Tech, miners drive Australian shares higher; Rio Tinto drops nearly 2%

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Jan 18 (Reuters) - Australian shares rose in choppy trading on Tuesday, helped by technology stocks and miners, while the world's biggest iron ore producer Rio Tinto dropped after warning of softer iron ore shipments in 2022.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) was up 0.3% at 7,439 points in early trade, after slipping 0.3% on Monday.

While a holiday in the United States made for thin trading, share markets globally were choppy on Monday.

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Back home, tech stocks (.AXIJ) rallied to the top of the benchmark on Tuesday, up as much as 1.2%. Buy now, pay later major Afterpay (APT.AX) gained 0.9%.

Miners (.AXMM) reversed course to rise in early trade, further aiding gains on the benchmark. The sub-index was up 0.5%, even as iron ore prices weakened.

Shares of Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) were down nearly 2% after it posted a 5.4% drop in its fourth-quarter iron ore shipments, partly hit by lower demand from top consumer China.

In contrast, global miner BHP Group (BHP.AX) was up 0.5%, ahead of its release of quarterly production figures on Wednesday.

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) were the biggest laggards, dropping 0.3% despite strong oil prices.

Sector major Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) was down 0.4%, while major fuel supplier Ampol Ltd (ALD.AX) firmed 2.2%.

Ampol said on Tuesday its Lytton Refinery in Queensland is expected to deliver the highest profit for more than four years in its quarterly results.

The financial sub-index (.AXFJ) fell 0.2%, with Australia's top lenders National Australian Bank (NAB.AX) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA.AX) sliding about 0.4%.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) fell over 0.2% to 12,780.17 points, after ending up 0.1% in Monday's session.

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Reporting by Savyata Mishra in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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