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Australia shares ease for third day, Santos surges; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended slightly lower on Tuesday, as gains in material stocks and a surge in energy company Santos countered losses in financial and industrial stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.13 per cent, or 7.5 points, lower at 5,751.9, marking its third straight day of losses.

"I think it's just concern over a couple of things. Maybe signs of a slowdown in growth, a peaking in growth momentum of stocks, various discussions over the IT sector in the US and also the prospect of a trade war, are combining to undermine the market," said Damien Hennessy, co-founder of Heuristic Investment Systems.

Meanwhile at home, the Reserve Bank of Australia stood pat on its cash rate at 1.5 per cent, marking the 20th month without a change and looked set to extend the period of "masterful inaction" for some time.

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Financial stocks ended lower with three of the "Big Four" banks down between 0.1 per cent and 1.2 per cent. ANZ posted its longest losing streak since June 2016.

Toll road operator Transurban Group and consumer stock Aristocrat Leisure were among other drags, down 1.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.

On the other hand, Santos was the top gainer on the benchmark, closing 16.2 per cent higher, after it received a US$10.4 billion unsolicited takeover offer from US energy infrastructure investment company Harbour Energy.

Santos said that it would engage with Harbour this time after it rejected their bid last year.

Miner BHP boosted the benchmark the most, up 1.8 per cent, while gains in global miner Rio Tinto of 2.1 per cent and gold miner Newcrest Mining of 2.3 per cent, were supported by higher prices of underlying commodities.

Newcrest shares were supported also by processing recommencing at it flagship Cadia mine.

Energy stocks also had a good session with Woodside Petroleum ending up 0.7 per cent, underpinned by firmer oil prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 10.86 points, or 0.13 per cent higher, at 8,329.93.

Utility companies Meridian Energy and Mercury NZ Ltd led gains by rising 2.5 per cent each, while construction firm Fletcher Building and Ryman Healthcare, led losses. Fletcher fell 1.7 per cent, hitting its lowest since July 2012.

REUTERS