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Australia: Shares see-saw in cautious trade ahead of Fed


[SYDNEY] Australian shares moved in and out of negative territory on Friday as investors, weary from global market volatility, were cautious ahead of next week's US Federal Reserve meeting.

At 0255 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was up 11.7 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 5,105.9. The benchmark, which earlier was down, on Thursday fell 0.4 per cent.

At the latest level, the market was up about 1.4 per cent for the week. The previous week brought a 4.2 per cent drop, the biggest since June.

The index was down 5.6 per cent year-to-date and trading around mid-2013 levels. "The wild swings are nauseating and I think everyone is just trying to get to next week's US Fed decision in one piece," said Chris Conway, head of research at Australian Stock Report. "Traders and investors must be feeling a bit tired at the moment, due to all the volatility we have seen of late." Banks were amongst the outperformers with National Australia Bank rising 1.7 per cent, ANZ and Westpac up 0.9 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively.

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Healthcare and telecommunications were amongst the losers with hearing implants maker Cochlear and Telstra both down 0.8 per cent.

After an overnight rally in oil prices, energy-related stocks were a mixed bag as Woodside Petroleum fell 1.2 per cent and Santos rose nearly 1 per cent.

Mining stocks were up. Rio Tinto rose 2.3 per cent, BHP Billiton up 0.3 per cent.

For more individual stocks activity, click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index rose 11.9 points or 0.2 per cent to 5,682.89 in early trade, supported by gains in building materials companies and utilities.

Construction materials maker Fletcher Building rose 1.7 per cent to NZ$7.28, extending its recovery from a three-year trough of NZ$6.90 hit earlier in the week as the slide in the blue-chip company below $7.00 prompted demand.

Mighty River Power rose 1.7 per cent to NZ$2.69, bouncing back from a two-week low of NZ$2.65 the previous day.

Further gains in the index were capped by selling in Spark which slipped 1.2 per cent to NZ$3.30, as some investors booked profits on the telecommunications retailer's rally to a seven-month high of NZ$3.39 on Wednesday.