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Australia: Shares flat, strong company results push NZ stocks higher

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[SYDNEY] Australia's share market fell slightly on Wednesday, led by falls on Wall Street overnight and poor results in the financial sector, while New Zealand shares rose after strong local results impressed investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 2 points to 5,529.4, or a fall of 0.05 per cent by 0300 GMT. But the meagre move masked volatility in individual stocks in response to companies reporting results.

Australia's largest insurer QBE Insurance Group posted a 39 per cent drop in first-half profit and shares tumbled by as much as 11.5 per cent.

Shares in Sonic Healthcare Ltd rose 6 per cent after the company announced a 30 per cent rise in profit.

"Investors have not been very happy with QBE's result and that's been a big drag on financials as a whole," said Angus Nicholson a market analyst at IG Markets.

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"The real bright spots in the market are the commodities-related firms that have benefited hugely from a big collapse in the US dollar overnight...the investor perception with regard to materials stocks and mining stocks as a whole is changing quite dramatically."

Shares in mining giant BHP Billiton, which reported a record loss on Tuesday, added 3.2 per cent.

Rio Tinto stock rose 2.4 per cent. Both stocks have underperformed the market over the past 12 months, but have outperformed the market for the year to date.

Crown Resorts, which reported a drop in profit of 23 per cent, added 3.1 per cent to its share price as the result was broadly in line with market expectations.

Shares in diversified real estate group Stockland fell 1.2 per cent after the company reported an 8.5 per cent rise in underlying profit.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent or 43.210 points to 7,353.88 on Wednesday.

Fletcher Building was the biggest gainer, soaring 5.1 per cent, its biggest per centage gain in nearly three years, after the company reported a boost in its 2016 earnings.

Heartland Bank rose 3.2 per cent, continuing its gains after reporting on Tuesday that revenues were up almost 9 per cent .

Kiwi Property rose 0.9 per cent after the company announced it had secured IAG as an anchor tenant for an office tower to be constructed at an Auckland shopping centre.

Retirement village operators also gained with Metlifecare up 1.4 per cent and Sumerset up 1.3 per cent.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare led losses, losing 1.4 per cent while honey company Comvita was down 1.1 per cent.


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