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Australia: Shares subdued as weak banks offset strong miners, New Zealand up

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[BENGALURU] Australian equities slipped on Thursday, as weakness in lenders offset resources stocks, which were bolstered by higher commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent or 4.6 points to 6,156.6 by 0102 GMT, after having gained as much as 0.3 per cent earlier.

The benchmark has cooled in recent sessions. It closed 0.2 per cent lower on Wednesday after rising about 9.3 per cent since the start of this year.

Financial stocks slid 0.4 per cent, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia down as much as 0.7 per cent in its sixth straight losing session. The sub-index had gained over 8 per cent in February when recommendations from an inquiry into widespread misconduct in the sector turned out to be less severe than expected.

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CBA has shelved preparations for a split of its wealth management and mortgage broking businesses to focus on implementing the recommendations of a Royal Commission.

"The rationale that they're no longer demerging it is probably the fact that they don't think that they could create as much value as they hoped," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

Mining stocks outperformed.

Zinc prices held close to an eight-month high as floods in Queensland state last month have disrupted supply, affecting major zinc miners such as South 32, which rose over 2 per cent.

Global mining behemoths Rio Tinto and BHP Group advanced as much as 1.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively.

BHP has stepped up exploration for gas off Trinidad and Tobago hunting which could supply the country's Atlantic LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant in the 2020s, a senior executive said.

Energy players Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy added 1.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively, as an unexpected fall in US crude inventories bolstered world oil prices.

Gold stocks benefited from the US Federal Reserve's patient stance on monetary policy and as the British parliament turned down a "no-deal" Brexit, which led to a weaker dollar that made the yellow metal cheaper in other currencies.

Newcrest Mining Ltd rose to its highest in over 2-1/2 years. It inked two deals this week - an exploration joint venture with a London-listed peer as well as an acquisition of a majority stake in a Canadian mine.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 index was up a marginal 4.49 points at 9,392.18, helped by consumer stocks such as Synlait Milk which gained as much as 1.9 per cent.

REUTERS