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Australia shares slip after technical snag delays opening; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched lower on Monday, dragged by financial and consumer stocks, as traders exercised caution ahead of central bank meetings in the United States and Japan this week.

The market's opening was delayed more than an hour. The exchange said it was "due to an issue with a component that allows ASX to manage individual stocks".

The S&P/ASX 200 index, which had gains the past three sessions, was down 0.4 per cent or 18.80 points to 5,277.9 by 0240 GMT.

US Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee, which last hiked borrowing costs in Dec 2015 to end seven years of near-zero rates, meets on Sept 20-21.

Japan's central bank will also meet on Tuesday and Wednesday and present an assessment of its monetary policy. Sources familiar with the bank's thinking have said negative interest rates could become the centrepiece of policy, in a shift away from the base money target that's been the focus since 2013.

The Bank of Japan meeting "might open the door for them to do more accommodation further down the track, but I would be rather surprised if anything happens this week," said Tony Farnham, an economist with Patersons Securities.

Financial and consumer stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark index.

Retail to resources giant Wesfarmers Ltd fell as much as 2.1 per cent but then erased much of that loss.

Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd dropped 0.9 per cent.

Energy stocks slipped as crude oil hit multi-week low on Friday. Woodside Petroleum slid 1.4 per cent while Beach Energy tumbled more than 3 per cent.

Gold stocks gained more than one per cent as spot gold rose 0.4 per cent to US$1,314.84 an ounce by 0155 GMT. Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd was among the biggest gainers on the benchmark, climbing more than 3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index nudged up 0.1 per cent or 3.60 points to 7,254.11.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is widely expected to keep rates on hold at 2.00 per cent on Thursday.

Losses in materials and telecom stocks were offset by gains in industrials and financials.

Auckland Airport extended gains and was up more than one per cent while Kiwi Property Group advanced more than 2 per cent.

Pay TV provider SKY Network Television declined more than one per cent while Orion Health Group fell more than 2 per cent.