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Australia: Shares eke out marginal gains; New Zealand flat
[BENGALARU] Australian shares edged up on Wednesday, taking cues from Wall Street, as gains in financials slightly outweighed losses in the basic material and energy sectors.
Wall Street ended higher on Tuesday with the Nasdaq setting a record as gains in big tech names countered energy declines.
The S&P/ASX 200 index extended gains into a second straight session, up 0.2 per cent, or 11.576 points, to 5,633.5 at 0126 GMT.
Financial stocks in Australia gained on Monday, erasing losses from the previous session, with the "Big Four" banks adding between 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent. "It's just a bit of a bounce back after yesterday's interest rates announcement," said Tony Cunningham from Cunningham Peterson Sharbanee Securities.
The Australian central bank kept cash rate unchanged at a its record low 1.5 per cent on Tuesday.
The industrial sector also gained, led by CIMIC Group which climbed as much as 8.5 per cent, its highest in more-than 8 months, after it reported a 12 per cent rise in full year net profit compared to the same period last year, beating expectations.
But basic material stocks declined with BHP Billiton falling as much as 1 per cent as workers were set to strike on Thursday at its Escondia copper mine, the world's largest, after contract talks mediated by the Chilean government failed to reach a deal.
BHP said it planned to halt production during the strike which the the union warns could be lengthy, potentially affecting global supplies of copper, a metal used in everything from construction to telecommunications.
Adding to the decline, gold stocks Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining fell 0.5 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively as gold slipped on Tuesday, pressured by earlier strength in the dollar as the euro fell on weak German industry data and nervousness ahead of the French presidential election.
The biggest losers on the main index were utility stocks with Origin Energy falling 1.5 per cent. Oil prices dipped on Tuesday as rising stockpiles in US revived supply glut concerns.
Among other energy stocks Beach Energy shed nearly 2 per cent while Oil Search fell 0.7 per cent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat as gains in heathcare and fiancials offset losses in utilities and consumer cyclicals.
Westpac Banking and ANZ added 1 per cent each while healthcare stock Fisher & Paykel rose 1.7 per cent.
Utility stock Meridian Energy lost 0.4 per cent while Fletcher Building lost nearly 2 per cent.