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Australia, New Zealand: Shares steady, mining sector strong

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[SYDNEY] Australian and New Zealand shares held steady on Wednesday, with commodity price rises offsetting a soft quarterly inflation figure in Australia.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.83 points to 5,539.3 by 0216 GMT, a gain of 0.03 per cent.

Shares had tracked as low as 5,530 points after Australia's Bureau of Statistics published inflation figures showing the slowest annual price growth in 17 years.

But the index recovered, as the figure was in line with market and analyst expectations.

"We seem to be possibly seeing a little bit of a buy-the-rumour, sell-the-fact reaction to the inflation data,"said CMC Markets chief market strategist Ric Spooner.

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"It's come in as expected, but we have seen a small move downward since and there's been a little bit of selling of yield type stocks like banks and Telstra." Australia's central bank meets next week to set interest rates, which are at an all-time low, and the CPI figure of 1 per cent is well below their inflation target range of 2 to 3 per cent.

Mining stocks were among the biggest gainers on the Australian bourse, underpinned by a 5 per cent jump in Chinese iron ore futures.

Fortescue Metals Group stocks surged 7.4 per cent to a near two-year high as the miner announced a rise in quarterly iron ore shipments and lowered its production cost target.

BHP Billiton Ltd gained 4.1 per cent, spin-off South32 Ltd rose 1.6 per cent and Rio Tinto Ltd shares rose 2.4 per cent.

Shares in bulk grain handler Graincorp Ltd fell as much as 7 per cent after media reports that its largest shareholder, Archer Daniels Midland Co wished to sell its stake.

Energy stocks edged higher, but other sectors fell as investors sold defensive stocks. Shares in Australia's biggest telecom, Telstra Corporation Ltd, fell 0.61 per cent and Australia's Big Four banks, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac and ANZ all edged lower by more than 0.3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index added 0.11 per cent or 7.78 points to 7,318.17.

The biggest gainers were Fletcher Building, up 1.3 per cent after a government commissioned report this week showed that construction activity is at an all time-high in New Zealand.

Ryman Healthcare slipped 0.7 per cent. While the company announced it had bought a site in Auckland for a NZ$200 million (S$190.8 million) development it also said its first-quarter trading was in line with expectations.


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