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Australia: Shares hit by stumble in energy firms, NZ at 2-week lows

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares were down for a second day in subdued trade on Tuesday, as falling oil prices pressured energy firms although miners proved resilient to more weakness in iron ore.

The S&P/ASX 200 index nudged 0.1 per cent lower, or 11.3 points, to 5,306.9 by 0156 GMT. It dipped 0.6 per cent in the last session, having touched its lowest level in two weeks.

The benchmark index has been drifting sideways since scaling a nine-month high of 5,425.2 on May 11.

Energy stocks were the hardest-hit on renewed weakness in oil prices with Oil Search down 1.6 per cent, having earlier fallen as much as 2.0 per cent to a low of A$6.48. Whitehaven Coal dropped 3 per cent, while WorleyParsons fell 1.2 per cent.

It was another grim day for Australia's top listed travel agent Flight Centre Travel Group which tumbled 6 per cent to a nine-month low. The company issued a profit warning on Monday, blaming a global airfare war.

Miners, however, managed to offset a 5.4 per cent fall in the price of iron ore, Australia's top export earner.

BHP Billiton rose 0.7 per cent, while fellow global miner Rio Tinto gained 0.4 per cent. Fortescue Metals Group, however, gave up 0.7 per cent.

The big four local banks were largely steady to higher with Macquarie Bank up 1.2 per cent, followed by Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia around 0.3 per cent higher each.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dipped 0.1 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 per cent or 34.5 points to 6,873.57, having touched its weakest since May 6.

The biggest loser was Tower, down 7.3 per cent, after it reported a half year loss. A2 Milk was also under pressure, down 1.9 per cent.

REUTERS