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Australia shares drift lower, NZ treads water

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares tipped into negative territory on Wednesday, after Wall Street financials, transports and other big post-election gainers lost ground as earnings season kicked into gear.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.36 per cent, or 20.62 points, lower at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 0.9 per cent on Tuesday.

In the US, financials and big post-election gainers slid ahead of earnings, while commments by President-elect Donald Trump withered healthcare stocks.

Australian financial stocks faltered with three of the "Big Four" banks sagging between 0.7 per cent to one per cent to their lowest in more than four weeks, except Commonwealth Bank.

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Healthcare giant CSL Limited, posted three straight sessions of losses and closed down 1.1 per cent.

Qantas Airways, slumped as much as 3.7 per cent, to record its biggest loss in 10 weeks, as the country's top airline grounded 10 turboprop aircraft and cancelled flights after it failed to complete inspections in a timely manner.

On the other hand, safe haven assets glittered as gold prices powered up to near eight-week highs, sending the ASX All Ordinaries Gold Index up as much as 2.5 per cent, its highest in two months.

Oil and gas giants Santos Limited and Woodside Petroleum gained 2 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively as the weaker greenback supported a rise in crude oil prices.

Consumer sentiment remained flat in January, dissapointing expectations of a recovery from a 3.4 per cent drop in December, in the survey from the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.05 per cent, or 3.69 points down, to finish the session at 7,059.27.

Consumer discretionaries dominated losses with web advertiser Trade Me Group, down as much as 2 per cent, its lowest in over four weeks.

Fletcher Building fell as much as 1.9 per cent to its lowest in a month.

Unlike broader markets, the healthcare sector in New Zealand ended in positive territory where Ryman Healthcare, one of the top percentage gainer on the benchmark, closed 1.45 per cent higher.

REUTERS

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