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Australia shares flat, NZ dips on wider-than-expected current account deficit

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat on Wednesday, with gains from financial stocks offset by declines in materials and energy sector on the back of fall in oil prices, while New Zealand shares dipped on wider-than-expected current account deficit in the second quarter.

Oil prices slid as much as 3 per cent on Tuesday after both the world's energy watchdog and Opec revised forecasts that suggested the global crude glut could persist for much longer than expected.

"In the last two to three days there's been a discrepancy. We have underperformed the US markets quite substantially. We didn't recapture the losses that we had on Monday, whereas US did yesterday. So, we are already ahead in the current decline in global equity markets," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets.

"The cautiousness is definitely coming. The Fed meeting is one of them," he added.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 4.92 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 5,212.7 by 0220 GMT.

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Markets have been unsteady during the past few weeks on uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next week, though most analysts expect the Fed to wait until later in the year.

Asset manager Platinum Investment Management was the biggest gainer on the benchmark index, jumping 13.9 per cent to record its biggest intra-day percentage rise since Jan 2008 after it announced its intention to commence an on-market share buy-back.

The "Big Four" banks gained between 0.6 per cent to one per cent.

Retail to resources giant Wesfarmers Ltd reversed losses to climb more than one per cent.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both slipped more than one per cent while Fortescue Metals Group tumbled as much as 2.7 per cent to its lowest in nearly a month.

Energy stocks fell to their lowest in over two months as oil prices tumbled overnight. Santos Ltd declined for a seventh-straight session, falling as much as 5.1 per cent to its lowest since April.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.6 per cent, or 46.74 points to 7,202.49.

New Zealand posted a wider-than-expected current account deficit in the second quarter, official data showed Wednesday.

Utilities and materials were the biggest drag on the index, accounting for more than half of the losses.

Power generation company Meridian Energy was among the biggest losers on the benchmark index, dropping more than 2 per cent, as retail sales volumes in August fell 4.5 per cent year-on-year.

Air New Zealand sagged more than 2 per cent after it announced a decline in August group load factor.


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