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Australia shares slip on weak commodities; NZ flat after technical snag

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Wednesday, hurt by losses in the materials sector, while New Zealand shares opened flat after a technical glitch delayed the start of trading by 90 minutes.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 8.19 points or 0.14 per cent to 5753.2 by 0120 GMT.

"There is a push and pull between financials and resources. For the markets to go high, we need both of them to move in the same direction", said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

"There isn't any positive catalyst in the resources sector right now," he said.

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Chinese iron ore futures fell for a third session on Tuesday, pressured by rising stocks of the raw material at China's ports and weaker steel prices, while copper fell to its lowest in a month.

Iron ore miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Fortescue Metals Group fell 1.02 per cent and 0.84 per cent respectively.

Gold prices were steady on Wednesday ahead of US payrolls data this week, but were not far from over four-week lows hit in the previous session on increased expectations of a US rate hike in March.

Gold miners Evolution Mining Ltd fell 1.92 per cent while Northern Star Resources Ltd lost 2.27 per cent.

Australia's benchmark mining index fell nearly one per cent.

Bucking the trend, financial stocks rose, with big banks National Australia Bank Ltd and Westpac Banking Corp Ltd gaining 0.99 per cent and 0.35 per cent respectively.

Investors in Australia awaited the Chinese import and export data for February, due at 0200 GMT.

The New Zealand stock exchange's opening was delayed 90 minutes on Wednesday due to a technical problem.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat to 7165.97 points. Industrial sector was the biggest loser on the index.

Courier services provider Freightways Ltd was down 1.11 per cent, making it among the biggest losers on the index.