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Australian, NZ shares slightly weaker post US tax vote

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares were slightly lower on Thursday, pulling back from the previous session's near 10-year high after a lacklustre Wall Street response to the much-awaited US tax cut approval, although local resource stocks rallied on firmer metals prices.

Analysts say US markets have already priced in the approval of the tax bill, which includes substantial cuts for big corporates.

"The US tax plan is virtually home now but the Americans built that in, so there's a relatively flat lead for our market today," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 12.4 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6063.2 at 0134 GMT. It rose 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

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Financials and real estate were the biggest decliners on the main board with Australia's biggest lender Commonwealth Bank , the biggest burden on the index, losing 0.4 per cent.

Retail properties manager Scentre Group Ltd shed 1.8 per cent, pulling down the sector. Telco Telstra Corp Ltd declined 0.8 per cent, weighing on the benchmark.

Materials stocks helped partially offset losses in other parts of the market with global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto gaining 1.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively.

"The tax changes in the US are particularly pertinent for the resources market ... the large infrastructure spin that is being flagged follows these tax changes and the Australian market is being buoyed by that sentiment," said Mr McGlew.

Base metal prices also underpinned the sector's rise, with nickel hitting its highest since mid-November and copper at a two-month high on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Australian gas producer AWE Ltd said it would accept a sweetened takeover offer from Mineral Resources Ltd, which trumped a bid from a Chinese state-owned firm.

Shares of target AWE fell 2.8 per cent post the news while Mineral Resources climbed 3.5 per cent to its highest in nearly a month.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index pulled back from a record high hit during the previous session after data showed that economic growth cooled.

The benchmark was mostly flat, down 1.5 points at 8,409, with gains in consumer staples offset by healthcare and materials stocks.

New Zealand's gross domestic product surpassed expectations as construction activity soared in the third quarter, but grew at a slower rate than the previous quarter, official data showed on Thursday.

REUTERS