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Australia stock index hurt by miners and financials; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Monday with materials and financials dragging the index into the red, though a surge in QBE Insurance Ltd helped contained losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.3 per cent , or 19.59 points to 5,719.30 at 0059 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.8 per cent on Friday.

Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd fell as much as 1.2 per cent to its lowest in over two months, extending losses into a fourth session. This follows a drop of more than 2 per cent on Friday in China's iron ore futures, after a rapid rally.

Metals and mining index, which has fallen three of the past four sessions, declined as much as one per cent.

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Rio Tinto Ltd slid as much as 1.9 per cent, lowest since Jan 23.

Market sentiment was also affected by a drop in oil prices on Friday on worries about rising US supplies.

Oil Search Ltd declined 3.2 per cent while Woodside Petroleum shed 1.6 per cent.

Financials were the second biggest loser with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd shedding 0.3 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank Of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp both dropped 0.8 per cent.

Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said there was "a bit of profit-taking" in financial stocks on some fears that their share-prices have peaked.

Japara Healthcare was the biggest per cent age loser, falling 7.7 per cent after it reported a fall in half-year net profit.

But QBE Insurance Group Ltd surged as much as 8 per cent to its highest in over a year after saying it would buy back up to A$1 billion (S$1.08 billion) of shares over the next three years.

Australia's No one insurer by premium income also reported a 23 per cent jump in full-year net profit.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,065.28 as gains in industrials were offset by losses in materials.

Health care services provider Metlifecare Ltd was the biggest percentage gainer, rising 1.8 per cent after it reported a 31.3 per cent jump in half-year net profit.

REUTERS

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