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Australian shares dip as profits taken before earnings reports; NZ down too

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares inched down on Wednesday, as losses for financial stocks outweighed gains by miners which were bolstered by higher commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 4.5 points, or 0.1 per cent, to close at 6,275.7.

The benchmark also barely moved on Tuesday, but July produced a fourth consecutive monthly gain, with a 1.4 per cent advance.

On Wednesday, BHP provided the biggest lift to mining and materials stocks, rising 0.6 per cent.

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Shares of fellow miner Rio Tinto, on the verge of announcing annual half-year results that are expected to be strong, also closed 0.6 per cent higher.

"Obviously, the mix of commodities prices over the last year has been very favourable, with (Rio's) profit coming from aluminium, copper and good quality 62 per cent iron ore," said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

"It's going to be their best profit figures since 2014," he predicted.

Financials, which account for over one-quarter of the S&P/ASX 200, weighed enough to tip the index negative as investors took profits at the start of Australia's earnings season.

As a group, Australian banks have "rallied reasonably strongly and outperformed the market over the last few sessions so I think there is some pressure reflecting those good gains," said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 1.4 per cent, and National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking were down 1.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.7 per cent, or 62.17 points, to finish the session at 8,859.92.

Telecommunications firm Spark New Zealand and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd weighed heaviest, falling 1.8 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS