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Australia: Shares dip, weighed by energy, financial firms; New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares pulled back from a more than 11-year high on Monday, as a slump in oil prices weighed on energy stocks and investors remained cautious ahead of bank earnings later this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.3 per cent, or 21.4 points, to 6,364.2 by 0059 GMT and looked set to snap four consecutive sessions of gains. The benchmark edged 0.1 per cent higher on Friday.

A 3 per cent decline in oil prices on Friday dented energy stocks with the subindex posting a 1.5 per cent fall to hit its lowest level since April 18.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said the outlook for growth remained constrained with investors nervous after the index hit multi-year highs last week.

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Investors also remain wary ahead of the bank earnings later this week, with two of the big four banks scheduled to report their first half results.

"Banks are a very substantial part of the Australian index. There has been a lot of talk around (bank earnings) with a couple of reports over the weekend saying that the earnings might disappoint. That of course is affecting the selling we are seeing today," Mr McCarthy added.

Shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank Ltd dipped 0.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Elsewhere, Australia's second-largest grocery chain Coles Group posted a rise in quarterly sales at its supermarkets in their first post-demerger earnings.

Shares of the retailer rose as much as 0.8 per cent to its highest since early February, while its larger competitor Woolworths Group dropped as much as 0.8 per cent.

Meanwhile, an uptick in gold prices supported the Australian gold index, which rose 1.9 per cent to a near two week high.

Gold miner St Barbara firmed 2.3 per cent, while Resolute Mining strengthened 2.8 per cent.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index up 0.5 per cent or 52.13 points to 10,046.70 helped by consumer and telecom stocks.

New Zealand-listed shares of A2 Milk Company gained 1.7 per cent, while Spark New Zealand firmed 2.1 per cent.

REUTERS