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Australia, New Zealand: Shares flat as long rally runs out of puff

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[SYDNEY] Australian and New Zealand shares were flat on Tuesday, as investors took a breather after long recovery rallies in both indexes that followed the slump after Britain's June vote to leave the European Union.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 3.87 points to 5,454.6 by 0145 GMT on Tuesday, a fall of 0.07 per cent. "It's a market that is marking time. Volumes are low at the moment and we're looking for it just to pull back a little,"said James McGlew, the executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut, a stockbroker in Perth. "In the days after the Brexit vote came out, it was fair dinkum as though the world would collapse, but here we are a few weeks later." Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index has gained 6.8 per cent, and has rallied for eight sessions in a row. New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index has added 6.7 per cent since the Brexit vote.

Investors sold financial stocks after big gains in that sector, but falls in both financials and mining were offset by modest rises in defensive stocks such as healthcare and retail.

Woolworths Ltd shares added 0.9 per cent as the company received bids for its Masters hardware business. Other retailers also rose with Wesfarmers Ltd adding 0.58 per cent and Metcash Ltd up 2.4 per cent.

Rio Tinto added 0.58 per cent after the company announced it remains on track to meet its full-year iron ore shipment guidance from its Australian mines.

BHP Billiton, which is due to release production data Wednesday, eased 1.97 per cent and its spin-off, South32 Ltd fell 1.78 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.1 per cent or 8 points to 7,114.15 Tuesday, tracking a tentative move higher across Asia as weaker crude oil weighed on sentiment.

The biggest gainers included agriculture supplier Skellerup , which climbed 1.6 per cent and energy utility Vector , which rose 1.2 per cent.

The biggest losers included health and beauty product manufacturer Comvita, down 2.8 per cent and retirement village operator Summerset, down 1.1 per cent.

With few local drivers investors remain focused offshore for direction.