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Australia shares flat as AMP slump offsets most gains, NZ falls

[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed flat on Tuesday, as gains in material and telecom stocks were offset by a sharp drop in the country's largest wealth manager after a probe into the financial sector heard the firm misled regulators.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 0.2 point to close at 5,841.5. The benchmark closed up 0.2 per cent at 5,841.3 on Monday.

Asian stocks wavered after data showed both hot and cold patches in the Chinese economy. China's economy grew 6.8 per cent in the first quarter, but March industrial output missed forecasts.

Australia's largest wealth manager AMP Ltd dropped 4.4 per cent after an inquiry heard the company lied to the country's corporate watchdog for almost a decade to cover its widespread practice of charging customers for services it did not provide.

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The inquiry began last month and is focusing on the provision of financial advice by AMP and the country's four largest banks.

Shares of AMP closed at their lowest since November 2016.

National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp fell between 0.4-0.5 per cent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia ended marginally higher.

Oil Search dropped nearly 2 per cent after it cut its full-year production forecast as output from its key Papua New Guinea liquefied natural gas project fell after a major quake in the region in February.

Other sectors, however, were in better shape with telco Telstra Corp up 1 per cent, while packaging company Amcor Ltd ended 1.4 per cent higher.

Saracen Mineral Holdings was the top gainer on the index, rising 5.6 per cent to a record close after the gold miner upgraded its full-year production guidance.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.7 per cent or 61.83 points to finish the session at 8,344.52, its worst close in two weeks.

Dairy and industrial stocks dominated the losses, with a2 Milk Company ending down 2.3 per cent at its lowest close since Feb 21.

Auckland International Airport lost 2.7 per cent.

The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that it expected New Zealand to show robust economic growth this year, but noted the housing market still posed medium-term risks to the economy.