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Australia shares flat as momentum cools; NZ up on A2 Milk

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares whipsawed on Thursday, following a flat Wall Street after U.S. President Donald Trump's tax plan failed to excite investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 1.564 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 5,913.6 by 0314 GMT.

Trump proposed slashing tax rates for businesses to 15 per cent from the current 35 per cent for public corporations and 39.6 per cent for small businesses, and on overseas corporate profits returned to the country.

But the one-page plan offered no specifics on how it would be paid for without increasing the deficit, which many analysts think would be difficult to achieve.

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The S&P 500 ended 0.05 per cent lower, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.1 per cent.

Other than cues from the United States, some analysts also saw the Aussie market consolidating after a sustained bull run. "The question we're asking now is are we taking a bit of pause today before we start moving up higher, or is the market fully priced in, and are there potential downside risks ahead,"said Chris Weston, Institutional Lender at IG Markets.

"We've seen a reasonable run over the past few days, and markets are probably waiting for a catalyst to make them move. We've also taken in a flat lead in from Wall Street."

Financials bolstered the Australian market, with the financial index hitting a fresh 23-month high, led by the 'Big Four' banks ahead of earnings next week.

"Banks have been outperforming other sectors lately, and there's a general belief in the market that we're seeing a turning point in banks' net interest margins and they should turn profitable going ahead. We are expecting some reasonable earnings growth from banks as well," Mr Weston said.

Gold stocks also rose after prices of the yellow metal edged away from two-week lows hit in the previous session.

Ramelius Resources Ltd Resolute Mining and Northern Star Resources rose as much as between 3 per cent and 12 per cent.

Lower commodity prices, however, hurt miners and oil companies.

Oil majors Woodside Energy and Oil Search fell 1.5 per cent each, while Origin Energy fell 4.18 per cent after oil prices slipped.

Santos and Beach Energy which have significant LNG assets, fell after the Australian government proposed to restrict exports of liquefied natural gas during times when domestic shortage (due to high exports) pushes up local LNG prices.

Mining majors BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals and Rio Tinto fell 1.2 per cent to 0.8 per cent after the most-active iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange slipped 1.2 per cent.

Lower London copper and oil prices also pressured BHP Billiton's shares.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.323 per cent, or 23.68 points, to 7,358.81, led by consumer staple and utility stocks.

A2 Milk continued to climb and posted a fresh record-high after it said Thursday it was seeing unexpectedly high demand for its infant milk formula via Chinese e-commerce.