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Australia shares end flat as banks offset resource stocks gains; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed flat on Wednesday with declines in financial and industrials sectors offsetting strong gains in miners and energy stocks, made after rises in copper and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 point to 6,069.900 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.2 per cent on Friday.

Materials led gains on the benchmark on Wednesday, underpinned by a strengthening in copper prices, which rose to their highest in nearly three-and-a-half years.

The Australian metals and mining index climbed 1.1 per cent to a near five-year closing high, extending its winning streak to an 11th consecutive session. Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto added 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively.

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Energy stocks outperformed all other sectors on the benchmark, supported by a surge in oil prices, which rose to 2-1/2-year highs in light trading volume on Tuesday, before slipping on Wednesday.

Oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum gained 0.6 per cent to an over one and a half month high, while Oil Search Ltd added 1.3 per cent.

Conversely, higher oil prices contributed to selling in Qantas Airways, which fell 2.5 per cent to its lowest since May 31.

"I think Qantas is being affected by where the oil prices are headed. We have been looking at oil prices as a positive sector for past couple of months and that's playing out right now," said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist at Blue Ocean Equities Financials accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark, with index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia falling 0.3 per cent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reversed earlier gains in the session to dip 0.2 per cent, or 20 points, to finish the session at 8,376.430.

Utilities accounted for most of the losses, with Mercury NZ Ltd declining 2.2 per cent to close at its lowest since Dec 11.

REUTERS