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Australia: Shares flat ahead of Fed rate decision, NZ up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat on Monday as gains in the materials and energy sectors were negated by losses elsewhere as caution prevailed ahead of the US Federal Reserve's rate rise decision later this week.

Despite a strong start, Aussie shares failed to cling onto the positive lead from Wall Street, where shares finished up on Friday after US non-farm payrolls data showed the economy added 228,000 jobs last month, topping expectations of a rise in jobs of 200,000.

That further buttressed the near certainty of a Federal Reserve rate rise in its policy meeting on Thursday.

"Well the first thing is that this (the rate rise) is fairly well anticipated so you are not going to see the markets reacting," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

"You will probably see more of a reaction from markets if it doesn't happen." Traders see a 96.2-per cent chance of a quarter-point Fed hike, according to Thomson Reuters data, with attention expected to turn to voting members' "dot-plot" outlooks for interest rate rises.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was up 1.5 points at 5,995.8 by 0109 GMT. It rose 0.3 per cent on Friday, and managed marginal gains on the week.

Miners, alongside big banks, were the movers on the main board with sector heavyweights Fortescue Metals Group and Rio Tinto, gaining 0.8 percent and 1 percent respectively.

Their shares rose on the back of rising prices iron ore and copper.

Overnight gains in oil prices helped energy stocks, with Woodside Petroleum up 1 per cent to hit its highest in two weeks.

However, oil prices fell on Monday, pulled down as the latest rise in the US rig count pointed to a further increase in American production.

Woodside's smaller peers Beach energy and Santos were also higher, up 0.7 per cent and 0.6 per cent respectively, together keeping the Aussie energy index up 0.3 per cent.

The financial index eked out minor gains helped by the performance of the big banks. Commonwealth Bank of Australia was about 0.5 per cent higher and the biggest boost to the main board.

Losses were concentrated in the utilities and healthcare sectors with healthcare giant CSL Ltd emerging as the biggest drag on the benchmark.

AGL Energy's 1 per cent loss was a blow to the utilities sector.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.2 per cent higher at 8,255.44 helped by industrial and consumer discretionary shares.

Auckland International Airport and Fletcher Building, up about 2.5 per cent and 2 per cent, were the index's top performers.