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Australia shares eke out marginal gains, NZ falls

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[BENGALURU] Australian bank stocks ended Tuesday in the red, as National Australia Bank dropped 3.5 per cent as it traded ex-dividend, but all other sectors closed in positive territory, lifted by recovering commodity and metal prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index perked up 0.2 per cent, or 12.098 points, to 5,850.5 at the close of trade. The strength in resource stocks lifted the index up as much as 0.6 per cent in early trade. The benchmark ended 0.03 per cent higher on Monday.

National Australia Bank sank to its lowest in three months after trading ex-dividend. The country's fourth-biggest lender recorded its biggest one-day fall in six months, snapping three days of gains.

Macquarie Group, Australia's biggest investment bank, followed suit and slipped 2.1 per cent, its lowest in over three weeks.

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The other three banks in the "Big 4" closed 0.3 to 0.5 per cent higher, leading gainers on the index.

Iron ore recovered after touching a four-month trough in the previous session, gold edged up for a fourth day of gains on weak US data and oil prices extended gains on hopes of an extension of crude supply cut.

Resource stocks were in the spotlight among gainers where index heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP closed 1.4 per cent and 0.8 per cent higher.

Activist investor Elliott Management upped pressure on the Anglo-American miner BHP to make changes in its structure to boost shareholder value.

The market also mirrored the positive sentiment on Wall Street, buoyed by increased demand for technology stocks following the global cyber attack.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.3 per cent, or 22.33 points, to finish the session at 7,407.61. Heartland Bank was the index's biggest decliner.