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Australia, NZ: Aussie shares end flat while NZ edges up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended steady on Thursday in lacklustre trade, as the gains from the financial sector were offset by falls in metals and materials stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.01 per cent lower, or 0.642 points, to 5,484 at the close of trade.

Brick maker Boral Ltd led the losses sinking 12 per cent, after it issued A$1.58 billion (S$1.663 billion) in new shares to pay for the buyout of US rival Headwaters Inc.

Gold extended losses from the 9-1/2 month plunge on Wednesday, due to the strengthening US dollar, sending Evolution Mining down 5.1 per cent.

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The country's biggest gold producer Newcrest Mining, down as much as 4.2 per cent, and the ASX All Ordinaries Gold Index hit a five-month low.

The S&P ASX Financials index, on the other hand, posted its fifth straight session of gains to stay at a 10-month high.

Australia's third biggest lender by assets Westpac Banking Corp and the country's third-largest bank by market value, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group the smallest of the "Big Four", were the biggest contributors to the financial sector's gains, up around 0.5 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.46 per cent or 31.8 points to a more than two week high to finish the session at 6,883.250.

The index extended gains to a second session, helped by telecom stocks, including Spark New Zealand Ltd, up more than one per cent.

Healthcare stocks gained, led by a more than two percent rise in medical devices maker Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Corp, which bounced back from its 10-month low on Wednesday.