SYDNEY, AAP – Australian shares were trading lower at midday, in line with peers across Asia, amid concerns over a new coronavirus variant and a dip in energy prices.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was down 47.8 points, or 0.65 per cent at noon to 7359.5 points.

The All Ordinaries was lower by 50.1 points, or 0.65 per cent, to 7686.8 points.

Despite US markets closed for Thanksgiving and European stocks ending higher, Asian markets started off on the wrong foot after reports of the new virus variant, detected in South Africa, prompted the UK to hurriedly introduce travel restrictions from the region.

In the local market, energy and material shares were the worst impacted, with healthcare joining in the decline.

Shares in Oil Search, Woodside and Santos all declined more than two per cent each as crude oil prices edged lower after the US this week announced it would release emergency oil reserves to cool the market.

Mining stocks were also lower, with Fortescue Metals dropping more than 3 per cent to $17.31 while bigger rivals BHP and Rio Tinto also slipped over two per cent each.

Gold stocks also dropped between 0.5-2.0 per cent.

Financial stocks continued to be weighed down by concerns over the impending rate hikes from the US Federal Reserve as well as local factors. Each of the Big Four banks were trading between 1.5-2.0 per cent lower.

AMP shares lost as much as 3.4 per cent to $1.01 after the wealth management giant flagged additional impairment charges worth $325 million in its fiscal 2021 accounts, ahead of a planned demerger of its AMP Capital unit.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was buying 71.72 US cents at 1200 AEDT, down from 72.05 US cents at Thursday’s close.