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Australia: Shares tread water, NZ hits new high


[SYDNEY] Australian shares barely moved on Tuesday, caught between gains in banks ahead of full-year results and losses in resources on worries about waning demand in China and Europe.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was mostly unchanged at 5,349.7 points by 0100 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 per cent on Monday. The index is up 6.6 per cent in October so far, on track for its best monthly performance since 2011. "The Aussie market looks unlikely to set the world on fire as investors prepare for the major banks' half yearly reports this week," said Mark Lennox, senior private adviser at HC Securities.

National Australia Bank will likely post record cash profit on Wednesday while ANZ Banking Group is set to report its slowest earnings growth since the global financial crisis on Thursday. "If the banks indicate lower payout ratios over the medium term, then clearly this will be a negative for the sector and the market in general." Trading has been subdued over the past week ahead of US Federal Reserve meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Bank of Japan's policy meeting on Friday. A patchy US corporate earnings season has also dulled investor appetite.

Market analysts have been expecting an early start to the"Santa Claus rally" although the medium-to-long-term outlook is still negative as concerns about global growth refuse to abate as commodity prices slide.

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NAB shares were on trading halt on Tuesday. Commonwealth Bank was up 0.8 per cent while ANZ and Westpac rose about 0.3 per cent each.

Miners were trading in red with BHP and Rio off 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent respectively. Forestcue fell over 5 percent.

Energy-related shares such as Woodside Petroleum and Origin fell 2-4 per cent.

Healthcare shares rallied with CSL up 1 per cent and Sirtext rising 2 per cent.