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Australian shares end flat as materials slide; NZ slumps

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[BENGALURU]  Australian shares closed flat on Tuesday as a sharp fall in materials stocks offset gains in healthcare stocks and banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index erased early gains to finish two points lower at 6,102.10. The benchmark added 0.2 per cent on Monday.

Materials accounted for most of the losses on Tuesday, hurt by a sharp fall in iron ore prices.

Global miner BHP fell 1 per cent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 2.2 per cent to a two-week low.

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Conversely, healthcare stocks led the gainers, with pharmaceutical firm CSL Ltd rising 2.7 per cent to a record high, while bionic ear maker Cochlear Ltd climbed 1.1 per cent.

Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities, said healthcare stocks were benefiting from a weaker local currency as they were global players.

The Australian dollar sank to its lowest in a year on Tuesday.

Banks also rose, with index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia rising 0.3 per cent, while Macquarie Group Ltd firmed about 1.8 per cent to a record high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slumped 1.2 per cent or 111 points to finish the session at 8,863.

Utilities and telecommunication services stocks accounted for most of the losses, with Spark New Zealand Ltd dipping about 3 per cent, its biggest drop in nearly three months, while Mercury NZ Ltd slid 3.9 per cent to its lowest since June 5.

REUTERS

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