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Australia shares little changed, banks extend losses on tighter regulations


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat on Monday, as extended losses in financials offset gains enjoyed by miners on the back of robust base metal prices.

Investors were also cautious given persistent Sino-US trade tensions and as they assessed the outcome of European Parliament elections which highlighted the political fragmentation in the 28-country bloc.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 2.5 points higher at 6,458.5 by 0201 GMT, having lost 0.6 per cent on Friday.

"We are still facing issues with trade war and also the EU elections in Europe," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

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Market holidays in London and New York also sidelined many investors.

Mining behemoth Rio Tinto rose 2 per cent to its highest level in nearly 11 years.

A weaker dollar on Friday helped to drive industrial metals up and iron ore also remained just below a record high.

Other mining peers such as BHP Group and Fortescue Metals also chalked up gains as much as 1.8 per cent and 2.6 per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks were down for a fourth straight day after Australia's financial regulator on Wednesday warned banks may face stricter external scrutiny and higher capital requirements unless they improved internal oversight.

Corporate activity was abuzz in Australia's telco landscape, with Vocus Group Ltd receiving a A$3.27 billion ($2.27 billion) takeover offer from a private equity firm, nearly two years after two suitors walked away from the company.

Vocus shares surged as much as 26 per cent to an over 29-month high on the news. Peers TPG Telecom and Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Ltd also rose 1.8 per cent and 8.3 per cent, respectively.

On Friday, TPG Telecom filed a case with an Australian court challenging the anti-trust regulator's move to block its about US$10 billion merger with Vodafone's local joint venture.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.6 per cent, or 62.75 points, lower to 10,159.61, dragged by healthcare stocks such as Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd , which slumped 4 per cent.

Air New Zealand Ltd shares were 0.9 per cent higher. The national carrier said it has ordered eight Boeing Co 787-10 Dreamliner jets worth US$2.7 billion at list prices, beating out rival Airbus SE, which had proposed the A350 for the hotly contested deal. The jets will be powered by General Electric engines.