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Australia: Shares close flat to end three session run of losses

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended flat on Wednesday as a plunge in the shares of Telstra, the country's biggest telecommunications company, was offset by gains in the real estate and consumer staples sectors.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed construction spending in the country posted its largest ever increase of 9.3 per cent last quarter and dwarfed forecasts for a rise of just 1 per cent.

The increase amounted to a whopping A$4.4 billion (S$4.75 billion) in inflation adjusted dollars, implying an addition to gross domestic product growth of more than 1 percentage point.

Most consumer staples stocks closed higher with Bega Cheese Ltd ending up 3.3 per cent.

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The metals and mining index closed 0.4 per cent higher, supported by copper prices that hovered just a whisker from its highest level in three years.

Copper miner OZ Minerals Ltd gained 2 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.01 per cent, or 0.688 points to 5,669.7 at the close of trade.

Among the losers, Telstra Corporation's shares closed 6.3 per cent lower after it dropped a plan to raise A$5.5 billion by selling income it receives from a government-owned broadband network. It also went ex-dividend.

Financials extended their losses with the sector index down 0.1 per cent as Commonwealth Bank of Australia closed 0.5 per cent lower, marking its third consecutive day of losses.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.5 per cent higher, or 36.86 points to 7775.2, snapping a four-day losing streak.

Gains were concentrated in the telecommunications and health care sectors, while materials stocks also contributed to the gains.

Spark New Zealand Ltd closed 1.6 per cent higher while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd gained 1.8 per cent.

REUTERS