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Australia: Stronger miners help keep shares steady

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Mixed showings among mining and bank stocks kept the Australian share market mostly flat on Friday, with investors shrugging off disappointing financial results.

[SYDNEY] Mixed showings among mining and bank stocks kept the Australian share market mostly flat on Friday, with investors shrugging off disappointing financial results.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.16 per cent, or 9 points, higher at 5,516.

Weak oil and gas prices hammered half-year profits at Australia's Woodside Petroleum and Santos on Friday, but investors sent their shares higher as both companies reported progress on cost-cutting.

Woodside was trading 2 per cent firmer, while Santos gave up its gains and was down 0.2 per cent.

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Shares in mining giant BHP Billiton, which reported a record loss on Tuesday, added 1.6 per cent.

"There has a swing back from the banks, which have had a stellar rise of late, to the resources stocks, which are leading the market today," said James McGlew, head of stockbroking at Argonaut in Perth.

But the rise in mining stocks wasn't universal.

Whitehaven Coal dropped 13 per cent after rising sharply the day before after reporting better-than-expected annual profits.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged higher by 3 points or 0.4 per cent to 7,388.12.

The index was poised for a second weekly gain, headed for a rise of 0.2 per cent.

Chicken products producer Tegel Group led gains, rising 3.4 per cent, after New Zealand and Australia made a deal enabling the export of raw poultry products from New Zealand to Australia.

Steel goods manufacturer Steel & Tube rose 1.3 per cent while consumer goods retailer the Warehouse was up 1.1 per cent.

Tower Insurance rose 0.7 per cent, and dairy company A2 Milk was up 0.5 per cent.

Power company Mercury New Zealand lost 1.1 per cent, while telecommunications company Spark fell 0.6 per cent.

REUTERS

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