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Australia shares tepid on Wall Street losses; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat with an upside bias on Monday, after losses in financials were offset by gains in material stocks, but overall trading was subdued with sentiment weakened by a lower close on Wall Street on Friday and a dip in oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 6.06 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 5,290.5 by 0121 GMT.

US stocks ended weak on Friday, on news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation would probe additional emails related to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server while secretary of state.

"I don't think markets are assuming that Donald Trump will win the election but the news about the emails just got the market a bit nervous", said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst for CMC Markets.

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Investors also took a wait-and-see stance ahead of a slew of market-moving data such as China manufacturing, US payrolls, and several central bank meetings this week.

Investors were also wary ahead of the RBA meeting on Tuesday where it is expected to hold its cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent.

Financial stocks fell 0.4 per cent to their lowest in about a month, with all 'Big Four' banks almost flat.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell 0.7 per cent in early trading after it announced sale of its wealth and retail businesses in five Asian countries to Singapore's DBS Group for S$110 million above book value.

ANZ said it expects to show a net loss of A$265 million (S$369 million), including write-downs as a result of the transaction.

Energy shares to fall 0.8 per cent after oil prices extended Friday declines on uncertainty over Opec cuts.

Oil Search Ltd fell 1.7 per cent due to oil weakness, while airliners Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia rose 2.3 per cent to 3 per cent gaining from lower fuel prices.

Woodside Petroleum also slipped 0.8 per cent after it said it faces an 8 per cent rise in expected costs on the Wheatstone LNG project in Australia.

Iron giant Rio Tinto rose 1.3 per cent for a second session after it announced exit from its Simandou Project, gaining also on a rally in spot iron ore prices that were headed for their biggest weekly gain in six months on Friday.

BHP Billiton was up 0.6 per cent, while Fortescue Metals gained 1.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.39 per cent or 27.14 points to 6,916.16, hurt by consumer discretionary stocks.

Sky Network Television was the biggest percentage loser on the index, down 4.6 per cent, which set the stock for its worst day in around four months.

Shares slumped after New Zealand's competition watchdog on Monday asked for more details on Sky Network's plan to buy Vodafone PLC for NZ$1.3 billion (S$1.3 billion).

Major telecommunication player and Sky Network's rival Spark New Zealand opposed the deal, arguing that Sky's monopoly on premium sports content rights is a key concern.

Spark New Zealand was among the top percentage gainers on the benchmark index, up 0.7 per cent.

REUTERS

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