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Australia shares edge up on support from materials; NZ gain

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares eked out modest gains on Monday as strength in consumer staples and materials managed to keep the benchmark index in the black despite losses in the real estate sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climbed 0.1 per cent, or 4.33 points, to end the session at 5,720.20. The benchmark closed 0.2 per cent higher on Friday.

Metcash Ltd rose 9.1 per cent and helped lift the consumer staples sector, after it reported a 9.3 per cent rise in underlying annual profit and announced plans to resume dividend payments.

Elsewhere, miners saw some gains on the back of improved commodity prices over the weekend.

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Steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel Ltd gained 3.2 per cent while Rio Tinto Ltd ended 1.3 per cent higher.

Financial stocks ended flat amid lingering concerns over surprise taxes, the latest being a fresh A$370 million (S$388 million) tax announced by the state of South Australia, just one month after being slapped with a A$6.2 billion tax by the federal government.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank warned that the surprise taxes are scaring away potential foreign investors by creating a less stable business environment.

Among the biggest losers were real estate and healthcare stocks. Retirement and nursing home operator Aveo Group dropped 11.2 per cent to its lowest close in over 20 months while CSL Ltd shed 0.4 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.6 per cent, or 41.86 points, higher to the session at 7,595.50.

Fuel supplier Z Energy Ltd and Spark New Zealand Ltd advanced 2.4 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively, and were the biggest gainers on the index.

Entertainment company SKY Network Television Ltd was the biggest drag on the index after it ended down 2.1 per cent to its lowest close in over eight years.

The losses came after the pay television provider terminated a sales agreement to buy Vodafone's local unit.

REUTERS

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