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Australia shares erase losses, helped by solid material prices; NZ down

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended marginally higher on Tuesday as strong commodity prices pushed up material stocks higher while financial stocks erased early losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.1 per cent, or 4.19 points, higher at 5,706.20.

The benchmark fell 0.4 per cent Monday.

The metals and mining index rose 0.6 per cent, supported by copper prices, which climbed to three-year highs, and nickel prices, which touched a two-year peak.

Most material stocks finished higher, with BHP Billiton ending 0.5 per cent up to A$27.62, its highest close in more than seven months.

Major miners Newcrest Mining, Rio Tinto both rose 0.7 per cent and copper miner OZ Minerals gained 1.1 per cent.

Financial stocks recovered from losses incurred early after a class action lawsuit against Commonwealth Bank of Australia over a money-laundering scandal knocked the market heavyweight and others in that sector lower.

The financial index was flat at close of trade.

Power producer AGL Energy was the worst performer on the index on Tuesday, closing 1.5 per cent down.

Australia's central bank left its cash rate at 1.5 per cent on Tuesday and data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the current account deficit widened in the first quarter.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down 0.4 per cent, or 30.82 points, to 7,777.4 at the close.

Losses were concentrated in the industrial and healthcare sectors, while telecommunication and information technology shares gained.

Auckland Airport shed 2.1 per cent down to its lowest closing price in almost eight months while Spark New Zealand finished 1.3 per cent higher.