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* Tech stocks end 2020 as best year on record
* Energy stocks see worst year since 2015
* NZ benchmark index adds 15% for the year (Updates to close)
Dec 31 (Reuters) – Australian shares wrapped up 2020 little changed from where they had begun, with tech stocks emerging as winners due to meteoric growth in buy-now-pay-later firms, while energy stocks saw their worst year since 2015.
On Thursday, the S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.4% lower at 6,587.1, capping off a year of record highs and historic lows just 1.5% below where it had closed in the first session of 2020.
Trading volumes were about a fifth of the thirty-day average, with the few traders left at their desks during year-end holidays looking towards stricter COVID-19 movement curbs ahead of the New Year as authorities battle to quash fresh cases.
Tech stocks closed 2020 as their best year on record with a gain of nearly 57%, mostly powered by exponential growth in buy-now-pay-later firms as stuck-at-home Australians turned to alternative credit for online shopping.
Afterpay quadrupled its market value, while smaller peers Sezzle and Zip rose more than 200% and 50%, respectively.
Miners gained 18%, with their bull run projected to continue into 2021 backed by rising iron ore prices.
BHP Group and Rio Tinto added more than 11% and 15%, respectively.
Energy stocks closed nearly 30% lower as pandemic-induced lockdowns battered fuel demand, but a turnaround is expected in 2021 as oil prices stabilise.
For the day, all major sub-indexes except gold were trading lower.
Gold stocks climbed 0.5%, tracking an uptick in spot bullion prices, while energy stocks slumped 1% as oil prices dipped.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index settled 1% lower for the day, but closed the year 15% firmer.
Dairy producers a2 Milk and Synlait were among the top losers of 2020 as their over-exposure to China saw their shares getting hammered over the last two quarters. (Reporting by Arundhati Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)