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Australia shares subdued ahead of US jobs data; NZ hits 2-month high

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat on Friday as investors took a cautious stance ahead of the closely-watched US jobs report due out later, with declines in materials capping gains in industrials and telecom stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ticked 0.1 per cent higher, or 6.6 points to 5,759.9 by 0110 GMT, its highest since June 2015.

The index was poised for a third-straight weekly gain in what would be its longest streak of weekly gains since July last year.

The market is bracing for Friday's US non-farm payrolls report in which economists expected jobs gains of 178,000 in December, after the same gain in November.

Market voices on:

"If they come out with really bad numbers then it is likely that it will cause a bit of a panic in Australia because they will think it is the end of the run," said Tony Cunningham from Cunningham Peterson Sharbanee Securities.

Australian gold index rose after the yellow metal climbed to its highest price in one month on Thursday. Gold producer Newcrest Mining drove the gains, advancing as much as 2.3 per cent to hit a seven-week high.

Australian rubber products maker Ansell Ltd jumped as much as 2.9 per cent to touch its highest in 17 months.

Telecom giant Telstra Ltd extended gains into a fourth-straight session, rising 0.9 per cent to vault to a four-month high.

Aconex Ltd and Transurban Group were the other big gainers, rising 2.4 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively.

At the other end, materials was the biggest drag on the index. Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd nudged lower 0.3 per cent while South32 Ltd slipped 1.2 per cent.

Amusement park owner Ardent Leisure slumped as much as 6.7 per cent to record its biggest intraday percentage loss in more than two months, before paring some of the losses, after it reported a sales drop following a fatal accident at its Dreamworld theme park.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched lower 0.1 per cent, or 5.2 points, to 6,970.4 after rising to a two-month high earlier in the session.

The index is poised to rise 1.3 per cent this week.

Gains in utilities and telecom stocks were offset by declines in industrials and healthcare.

Tegel Group Ltd and Sky Network Television Ltd were among the top per centage gainers on the benchmark, rising 1.4 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively.