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Australia: Shares inch lower after five days of gains; New Zealand up

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Tuesday as investors booked profits after five straight sessions of gains, with financials and industrials taking some of the biggest hits.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.3 per cent, or 20.70 points, to 7,058.80 by 0102 GMT after a 0.2 per cent gain on Monday.

"Cautious is the right way to summarise the start we're seeing here in trading," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Investors are weary given the index's strong gains and expect a downward movement in the short term, he added.

The benchmark index breached the 7,000 mark for the first time last week and had risen 5.9 per cent this year by last close.

"Some of the selling we are seeing here is investors locking in gains ahead of what might be a downdraft," Mr McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, top miner BHP Group reported an 11 per cent drop in New South Wales thermal coal output in the first half due to Australian bushfires, but maintained its full-year forecast. For the December quarter, the miner, however, posted a 3 per cent rise in iron ore production.

BHP shares dropped about 1 per cent before cutting losses. Material stocks, however, were little changed with gold miners offsetting most of the losses.

The gold index rose 0.4 per cent, underpinned by overnight gains in the metal.

Silver Lake Resources and Perseus Mining were the top gainers, rising 4.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

Financials weighed heavily on the benchmark index, shedding about 0.4 per cent in their third straight session of losses.

All the "Big Four" banks traded in the red, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia declining 0.6 per cent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dipped 0.2 per cent.

Energy stocks also ticked lower, falling as much as 0.6 per cent to their lowest in a week.

Viva Energy Group slipped 1.3 per cent to its lowest level since Oct 21. Whitehaven Coal, another company hurt by bushfires, dropped about 1.6 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 29.34 points, to 11,776.29.

Contact Energy rose 2.2 per cent, while Fletcher Building gained 0.9 per cent.

REUTERS