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Australian shares end flat as gains for Telstra, QBE offset miners' losses

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed unchanged on Thursday, as a selloff in materials was offset by gains in Telstra Corporation Ltd and QBE Insurance Group Ltd .

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched 0.01 per cent lower to 6328.30 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

Chinese iron ore futures slumped more than 4 per cent to a two-week low on Thursday, driving the weakness in materials stocks which accounted for most of the losses on the main index.

The metals and mining index dropped 2 per cent to its lowest since April 18. Global miner BHP fell 2.3 per cent to its lowest in more than three weeks, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd fell 1.3 per cent to its lowest in seven months.

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Origin Energy Ltd piled on the losses as it fell 6.8 per cent when underlying earnings in its energy markets business fell short of expectations.

Telstra Corp Ltd, Australia's biggest telecom company, jumped 5.5 per cent to its highest in more than three months.

Telstra posted a fall in annual profits that was lower than expected and showed signs of growth in its cloud computing business, giving its long-suffering investors some comfort.

QBE Insurance Group Ltd climbed 6.9 per cent to its highest since Jan 29.

The insurer said its first-half net profit had risen thanks to improved performance in several regions and the benefit its new streamlined structure after offloading several of businesses over the past year.

In New Zealand the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.1 per cent or 11.42 points to finish the session at 8,998.91.

Gains were led by Fletcher Building and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation, respectively ending the day 1 per cent and 0.7 per cent higher.

REUTERS