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Australian bank shares pare index gains; NZ hits another record high

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged up marginally on Tuesday, with gains across most sectors pared by large bank stocks, which fell on news they could face stricter lending conditions.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.08 per cent or 5.1 points to 6,653.20. The benchmark rose 0.4 per cent on Monday.

A 25 basis-point cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) was largely priced in by markets, although further cuts this year are likely as the central bank attempts to shore up economic growth.

"I suspect that having delivered twice in a row, the RBA is most likely now to wait and see what the impact of those two rate cuts are before making any moves," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"Markets however, will continue to price in potential four rate cuts," he said.

The Big Four banks were the main weight pushing down the index, with all of them closing at least 1 per cent off after the Australian securities regulator announced public hearings for imposing stricter lending conditions.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) proposed, among other things, that banks should carry out more detailed checks on the credit health of prospective borrowers.

"In a large market, particularly for the big banks that have a lot of lending, having to assess every single potential borrower in an individual way will add substantially to costs," Mr McCarthy added.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the largest lender, ended down 1.5 per cent, while the financial subindex fell 1.1 per cent.

Australia's biggest lenders also flagged a possible reduction in or exit from New Zealand businesses if Wellington pushes ahead with plans to increase the amount of capital banks must hold.

Mining stocks firmed 1.2 per cent on the back of miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto, which advanced 0.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively, on record-high iron ore prices.

Shares of BHP closed at a more than eight-year high.

Payments platform operator Afterpay Touch Group, which named a new chief executive, was the largest percentage gainer in the ASX 200.

New Zealand stocks closed at another record high on strength across most sectors. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent or 67.41 points to finish at 10,531.94.

The country's largest electricity retailer, Meridian Energy, ended 0.9 per cent up, while Auckland International Airport gained 0.6 per cent. 

REUTERS