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Australia: Shares post modest gains, Kathmandu slides


[SYDNEY] Australia's share market rose modestly on Tuesday as energy and mining stocks climbed in line with firmer commodity prices, helping offset weakness in the major banks.

A further fall in the US dollar overnight had injected some life into the prices of commodities such as oil and gold, which in turn gave investors an excuse to get back in the sector.

"They've had a tough run and once in a while you'd expect them to tick higher, but nothing has changed fundamentally, they are still in a very tough position," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.3 per cent, or 16.2 points, to 5,972.4 by 0125 GMT. It remained tantalisingly close to the 6,000.0 mark, which has proved to be a formidable barrier so far. Two attempts to break above that level this month ended in failure as profit-takers were quick to emerge.

Newcrest Mining rose 2.5 per cent, while oil and gas producer Santos put on 1.3 per cent.

In contrast, the financial sector was softer, consolidating recent gains that have driven three of the big four banks to record highs. Commonwealth Bank eased 0.3 per cent to A$95.21, pulling away from an all-time high of A$96.69 set on Monday.

Among the big movers, Kathmandu Holdings slumped 9.2 per cent to A$1.425 after the outdoor clothing and equipment maker reported a net loss in the first half.

It's New Zealand-listed shares were 8.7 per cent lower at NZ$1.47.

Other retailers fared better, with the Warehouse up 1.1 per cent at NZ2.85, Pumpkin Patch up 4.9 per cent at NZ$0.32 and smaller rises for Michael Hill and Briscoe group.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index was a touch softer at 5,868.6, down 0.1 per cent, as it waited for new momentum in lacklustre trading.

The market hit a record high last week but has been consolidating since then, with the looming end of the tax year on March 31 often a dampener on trading.

Elsewhere, power generator Mighty River Power fell 1.6 per cent to NZ$3.12, a two month low, after announcing it will close and sell its gas-fired Southdown power station.