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Australia shares fall for 4th day as markets brace for Trump speech; NZ up

41553679 - 17_02_2017 - AUSTRALIA STOCK MARKET ASX.jpg

[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell for the fourth straight session on Tuesday, erasing earlier gains, as investors buckled up for US President Donald Trump's speech to Congress later in the day.

Mr Trump is expected use the major policy speech to a joint session of Congress to preview some elements of his plans on infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose as much as 0.6 per cent earlier in the session but ended down 0.2 per cent, or nearly 12 points, at 5,712.2.

For the month of February, the benchmark index gained 1.6 per cent.

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Basic materials and consumer staples widened losses on Tuesday, offsetting gains in the energy sector.

Gold stocks were the biggest drag on the materials sector, with St Barbara shedding 11.2 per cent and Resolute Mining tanking 12.3 per cent, its biggest per centage loss in 19 months.

Major miner Rio Tinto was 0.8 per cent lower, while peer BHP Billiton was flat.

Consumer stocks were pulled down by retailer Woolworths , which shed 1.6 per cent.

On the other hand, the energy sector managed to hold onto its gains on the back of higher oil prices.

Oil major Santos Ltd added 2.2 per cent.

Engineering firm WorleyParsons Ltd, however, was the star of the sector, jumping 32 per cent after Dubai-based private network of professional services firms Dar Group took a stake in the company.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 1.2 per cent, or 88.28 points, higher at 7,167.46. The rise took its gains in February to 1.7 per cent.

Gains were broad-based with financials, industrials, and healthcare leading the way.

Metlifecare Ltd and Chorus Ltd were the biggest gainers on the benchmark, each adding over 3 per cent.