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Australia: Shares tread water after recent rally; NZ steady

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares ran out of steam after a bold start to the week, falling 0.2 per cent on Wednesday, hurt by banks and telecom stocks although buoyancy in resources and energy-related sectors helped curb steep losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 7.9 points to 5,159.5 by 0127 GMT, giving up early intraday gains of as much as 0.5 percent. The benchmark was already showing signs of fatigue on Tuesday, when it came off a near one-month peak to close a mere 0.3 per cent higher. It soared 2 per cent on Monday.

The index gained more than 5 per cent over the last five sessions to Tuesday's close, after hitting a two-year trough late last month. It will likely end the year at 5,200 points - marking its first annual loss since 2011, according to a Reuters Poll. "Yesterday's fade from the early highs was suggestive that the bulls have momentarily run out of puff and we're seeing confirmation of that today," said Chris Conway, head of research at Australian Stock Report. "This morning's pop higher was a little surprising, given the mixed leads from the overnight session, so where the market is now is probably where I expected it to be." US stocks fell on Tuesday, ending a five-day winning streak while Asian stocks were firm on Wednesday helped by a sharp rebound in oil prices.

Top miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were up 1.1 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively. Energy firms Santos, Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy jumped 3-8 per cent.

Asset management firms such as Perpetual and Platinum led the losses falling 3 and 4.5 per cent each.

Major banks all traded in the red with Commonwealth Bank down 1.1 per cent and Westpac off 0.7 per cent. Leading telco Telstra was down 1.1 per cent.

For more individual stocks' activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index held gains on Wednesday, having rallied 0.7 percent in the last session. It was up 0.1 per cent or 6.84 points to 5,674.27.

Stocks in the health care and technology and sectors were the biggest gainers. Orion Health Group rose around 3 percent, having briefly touched a one-month peak on Tuesday when it was awarded a US Defence subcontract.

Software developer Xero leapt to around 4 per cent to an eight-week peak.

Energy stocks came under pressure with Mighty River dropping 1.2 per cent, the lowest in one year.

REUTERS