SYDNEY, AAP – Worries about the latest coronavirus variant have kept the ASX lower at the start of the week.

The market was almost 0.3 per cent lower on Monday but had steadily improved since the opening of trade.

The ASX lost 1.7 per cent on Friday following early reports of the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

On Monday, financial and property shares were the most affected and were each down about one per cent at 1200 AEDT.

Technology shares had the biggest gains and were up a little more than one per cent.

Australian health officials are checking arrivals for the Omicron variant after a number of infected people arrived in Sydney on the weekend.

Australia has not followed some countries in closing its borders to visitors, however people arriving from some African nations must quarantine for two weeks.

Travel shares were trading lower. Webjet lost 3.36 per cent. Corporate Travel Management was down 2.4 per cent. Flight Centre dropped 1.63 per cent.

The oil price improved after Friday’s plunge of about $US10 a barrel on Omicron lockdown concerns. Brent crude was up about three per cent to $US75.80 a barrel.

Energy shares were down by about 0.7 per cent.

US markets closed more than two per cent lower on Friday but the ASX was doing much better than the lead.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 20 points, or 0.27 per cent to 7259.3 points.

The All Ordinaries was lower by 20.3 points, or 0.26 per cent, to 7579.6 points.

The mining giants were all higher. BHP was up 1.41 per cent. Fortescue was better by about two per cent, while Rio Tinto improved by about one per cent.

Gas provider Senex is giving a suitor more time to assess its financials for a possible takeover.

Posco International asked for two more weeks to finalise its most recent offer of $4.60 per share.

Senex intends to unanimously approve the scheme.

Shares were down 2.5 per cent to $4.29.

The big banks were all lower. ANZ and NAB fared worst, with losses of 1.8 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

Software vendor Nuix has had a second class action claim filed against it.

Shareholders claim the company prospectus misled them and filed the matter with the Supreme Court of Victoria. They have similar grievances to the shareholders who filed a claim earlier this month.

Nuix will defend the claims.

Shares were up 0.19 per cent to $2.54.

Today is the last day of trading securities in Spark Infrastructure after a consortium takeover offer was approved.

The North American consortium, called Pika Bidco, has had its scheme approved to pay investors $2.7675 per security. They will also be paid a special distribution of 12 cents per security.

Spark securities were even at $2.88.

The Australian dollar was buying 71.33 US cents at 1200 AEDT, lower from 71.39 US cents at Friday’s close.