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Australia: Shares unmoved by dovish central bank minutes, New Zealand eases

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were flat on Tuesday, with losses in financial and energy stocks offsetting gains in miners, after the central bank in its July meeting minutes said it was ready to cut rates again this year "if needed".

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.07 per cent to 6,648.70 points by 0214 GMT. The benchmark ended 0.7 per cent lower on Monday.

A quarter-point cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia earlier this month, the second of its kind in two consecutive months, took cash rates to a record low of 1 per cent.

The move highlighted the RBA's urgency to get the country's economy on its feet and reduce unemployment, and markets had already begun pricing in another 25 basis-point cut before the year ended.

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Australia's A$1.9 trillion economy (S$1.76 trillion) is expanding at its weakest pace since the global financial crisis held back by a long downturn in the country's property market and tepid household consumption.

"There was nothing new in that the wording (of the RBA minutes) was largely consistent with the July statement. The clear focus on employment and overall dovish tone suggest the door remains open to further cuts," said Callum Thomas, Head of Research at Topdown Charts Limited.

"As far as the market is concerned there is no real incremental information here."

Robust iron ore prices, driven by expectations of a rise in demand, underpinned the mining sector, with shares of global miners Rio Tinto and BHP Group adding 0.7 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively. Shares of the world's no. 4 iron ore miner Fortescue rose to a near 3-week high, adding 3 per cent.

Rio shares advanced despite reporting an fall in quarterly shipments and flagging a cost blow-out of up to US$1.9 billion and a delay of up to 30 months at its Oyu Tolgoi underground copper mine in Mongolia, a key growth project.

However, losses in financial and energy shares weighed on gains posted by miners.

The financial sector sub-index fell 0.4 per cent, weighed by the country's biggest banks which lost in a range of 0.1 per cent-0.7 per cent.

Meanwhile, a second consecutive day of declines in oil prices pulled energy stocks lower.

Crude oil prices took a hit on Tuesday as more production facilities returned to operation in the US Gulf after a hurricane swept through over the weekend.

Energy index heavyweight Woodside Petroleum slid 1.9 per cent, while smaller sector peer Oil Search, whose quarterly revenue reported earlier in the day fell short of forecasts, was off 1.4 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.2 per cent lower at 10,646.42.

Data showed inflation accelerated in the second quarter due to higher fuel and housing costs, but it did little to change expectations of an interest rate cut this year.

Shares of Auckland International Airport and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare were the top losers, off 2.2 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

REUTERS