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Australia: Shares start year on cautious note

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Australian shares opened on a cautious note in light post-holiday trade on Friday, with investors concerned about the health of the global economy as the European Central Bank chief said the bank stood ready to respond to deflation risks.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares opened on a cautious note in light post-holiday trade on Friday, with investors concerned about the health of the global economy as the European Central Bank chief said the bank stood ready to respond to deflation risks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index held steady at 5,416.4 points by 0206 GMT in the first trading day of 2015, with many investors yet to return from their New Year holidays.

The benchmark rose a mere 1 per cent in 2014 compared with the robust gains in the previous two years, largely due to the tumble in commodity prices in recent months.

Miners were in the black, supported by last week's bounce in prices of iron ore, Australia's top export earner. Atlas Iron led the charge with a 33 per cent rise, while Fortescue Metals Group rose 4.3 per cent and Rio Tinto was up 0.6 percent. "Investors may have felt the price of Atlas Iron fell too far (last year). It was one of the worst performers in the ASX 200 - down 85 per cent- and there may be some repositioning,"said Juliana Roadley, market analyst at Commonwealth Securities.

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Tiger Resources jumped 6 per cent after a media report quoted the company head as saying the copper miner had options to refinance short-term debt.

The energy sector was also stronger with Whitehaven and Drillsearch both up more than 2 per cent.

The "big four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia , Westpac Banking Corp, ANZ Banking Group and National Australia Bank - were slightly lower.

New Zealand markets were closed on Friday.

REUTERS

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