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Australia: Shares track commodities lower, NZ stocks flat

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares tracked commodity prices and global markets lower on Tuesday, while New Zealand shares barely moved.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 17.56 points to 5,515.7 per cent at 0155 GMT, 0.32 per cent lower than Monday's close.

"We're essentially just treading water." said Commonwealth Securities market analyst Steven Daghlian. "It is just the third time in close to three weeks we are losing ground and it is partly due to lower commodity prices last night, and the US markets pulling back a touch."

Traders are watching an inflation figure due Wednesday for clues on the Australian central bank's next move, he said.

Energy and mining stocks led falls, as oil, gold and iron ore prices slid overnight.

Oil players Santos Ltd, Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Origin Energy Ltd declined, as did engineering outfit WorleyParsons Ltd. Santos fell 4.71 per cent, Origin 2.9 per cent, Woodside 1.6 per cent and WorleyParsons 3 per cent.

Gold miners lost value after spot gold edged lower overnight. Newcrest Mining Ltd fell 3 per cent and Independence Group, which operates the Tropicana gold mine in West Australia, shed 3.9 per cent.

Dalian iron ore has edged down 0.45 per cent this week and shares in ore miners fell Tuesday. BHP Billiton Ltd dropped 1.6 per cent on Tuesday, and Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.4 per cent.

Consumer goods retailers edged up, after a weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan confidence indicator showed a rise in consumer confidence following four weeks of falls.

Electronics retailer JB Hi-Fi added 3.3 per cent, department store owner Myer Holdings Ltd 2.41 per cent and vitamin seller Blackmores Ltd 2.6 per cent. But biggest grocer Woolworths, which surged 8.2 per cent on Monday on corporate restructuring news, fell 3.4 per cent.

Financial stocks also gained, led by Clydesdale Bank , up 1.7 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was unchanged, hovering around record highs, at 7,317.47.

"It's not bad given overseas markets were a bit weaker. Our market remains underpinned, not just by yield investors but by ones looking at some areas where they believe prospects look very good," said Hamilton Hindin Greene broker Grant Williamson.

The biggest gainers were hotelier and gaming company Sky City up 1.2 per cent and property fund Stride Stapled, 1.5 per cent ahead.

Big losers included health and beauty product manufacturer Comvita, down 1.9 per cent.