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Aussie shares up on financials, healthcare; NZ edges down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares recouped early losses on Tuesday as gains in financials and healthcare stocks offset a heavy selloff in materials and as investors awaited a central bank policy decision.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to keep its main interest rate unchanged later in the day (0330 GMT) after its chief said policy may not change all year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 per cent, or 19.09 points, to 5,764.80 as of 0100 GMT.

In a sudden turnaround, financials, the biggest index constituent reversed course and pared early losses, with the 'Big Four' banks trading in positive territory.

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Shares of Westpac Banking Group rose 0.7 per cent, while National Australia Bank gained 0.6 per cent.

Defensive stocks such as healthcare, consumer staples and utilities also supported the index.

Biotherapeutics company CSL Limited and hearing implants maker Cochlear Ltd rose 1.8 per cent each.

Meanwhile, shares of Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure Group gained 3.1 per cent, after the company's theme parks division reported higher revenue in February compared to the previous two months.

Iron-ore miners fell heavily, tracking weaker iron ore futures in China, which fell more than 2 per cent on Monday after inventories at Chinese ports surged to the highest in at least 13 years.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd dropped more than one per cent. A third straight day of losses for gold prices on Monday pressured gold stocks, with the benchmark index slipping as much as 2.8 per cent to its lowest in two months.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining dropped to a one-month low, while its peers Northern Star Resources Ltd and Evolution Mining Ltd lost 3.1 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.13 per cent or 9.58 points to 7169.16 by 0018 GMT. Industrials and utility stocks were the worst performers on the index.

Shares of Auckland International Airport Ltd shed 1.2 per cent after the company announced some changes to its airport executive team.

REUTERS

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