SYDNEY, AAP – Australian shares were treading water by noon on the penultimate trading session for the year, with modest gains in banking and mining shares keeping the indices in positive territory.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index was up just 3.2 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 7513 points at 1200 AEDT on Thursday.

The All Ordinaries index rose 0.6 points, or 0.01 per cent, to 7840.9 points.

Local investors took their cue from listless trading across the Asia-Pacific markets, with sentiment subdued by surging case numbers of the Omicron coronavirus variant, even as many countries chose to relax rules to try and limit the economic damage.

Australia’s major states again reported record-setting numbers. NSW reported 12,226 new cases, Victoria had 5137 infections and 13 deaths, and Queensland hit a record 2222 cases.

The local market saw some profit taking in health care, consumer and energy shares amid thin trading volumes.

Materials and financials were the only major sectors trading in the green.

Three of the four major banks were trading between 0.2 and 0.5 per cent higher, with ANZ slipping 0.25 per cent lower to $27.81.

Magellan Financial continued its recovery from a slide last week, rising another 2.6 per cent to $21.50.

Among the big iron ore miners, BHP and Rio Tinto were up more than 1.0 per cent each while Fortescue was 0.1 per cent lower at $19.24.

Lithium producer Pilbara Minerals continued its upward march, rising 2.25 per cent to $3.25, but safe-haven gold explorers turned weaker as risk appetite returned for investors.

Shares in Bega Cheese rose 2.4 per cent to $5.46 after news that billionaire Andrew Forrest’s private investment group Tattarang has acquired a 6.6 per cent stake in the Vegemite and Farmers Union owner.

Among the major losers, pipeline giant APA Group’s shares were down more than 3 per cent to $10.11, Telstra edged lower to $4.18, while buy now pay later lender Afterpay continued to drop, down 2.6 per cent to $82.88.

Travel-related shares were weaker amid the rising number of virus cases. Qantas, Flight Centre and Sydney Airport were each down between 0.1 and 0.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar was higher, buying 72.55 US cents at 1200 AEDT, compared to 72.31 US cents at Wednesday’s close.