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Australia shares drop on profit taking; NZ extends gains

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Monday as investors booked profits after a strong rally last week, with declines led by materials and financials, while energy stocks came under pressure from a sharp drop in oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 per cent, or 16.09 points, to 5,489.4 by 0110 GMT. The benchmark added 2.8 per cent last week.

Trading was thin, with volumes 0.2 times the 30-day average, while the metals and mining index fell as much as 1.2 per cent.

"We may be just seeing profit taking, even though we saw gains in iron ore, copper prices on Friday. Some of the investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude to whether the recent gains are really going to sustain," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

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Zinc surged to its highest in more 8-1/2 years on Friday, while copper also ended firmer. Dalian iron ore closed up 4.6 per cent.

Index heavyweight BHP Billiton Ltd, which touched a 15-month high on Friday, shed as much as 2.8 per cent. Rio Tinto Ltd dropped more than one per cent in early trade.

Bucking the trend, iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd rose as much as 3.1 per cent.

Financials which rose 1.7 per cent last week, shed around half a per cent.

The "Big Four" banks fell around 0.6 per cent to 1.3 per cent, and were also the among the biggest drags on the main index.

Energy stocks dropped as much as 2 per cent, their biggest intraday decline in nearly three weeks.

Oil prices dropped on uncertainty over whether the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) will reach a deal to cut output at a planned meeting on Wednesday.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Santos Ltd and Oil Search Ltd weighed on the benchmark, each losing more than 2 per cent.

Gold stocks recovered from two sessions of losses after the precious metal regained its footing as the US dollar shed some gains.

Regis Resources Ltd jumped as much as 4.7 per cent while Evolution Mining Ltd and Northern Star Resources Ltd gained more than one per cent each.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index extended gains to a fourth straight session rising 0.2 per cent to 6,913.31 at 0110 GMT.

Gains in consumer staples and healthcare sectors were offset by declines in financials and materials.

The a2 Milk Company Ltd surged 2.9 per cent to reach a nine-month high.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd were among the top boosters on the index, rising about a per cent each.

Fletcher Building Ltd and NZ-listed shares of Westpac Banking Corp fell more than one per cent each.

REUTERS

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