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Australian shares flat amid caution ahead of US earnings; NZ falls

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were little changed on Tuesday, with losses among financials erasing gains from energy stocks, as investors remained cautious ahead of a looming US earnings season, which is expected to show US corporate sector weakness.

The S&P/ASX 200 index climber just 0.4 point, or 0.01 per cent, to 6,221.8 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.7 per cent on Monday.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq edged into positive territory on Monday, however, gains were held in check by falling industrials as investors braced for what analysts now expect to be the first quarter of contracting earnings since 2016.

"There is not a lot of conviction out of the US market as well as the Aussie market," said Christopher Conway, senior investment adviser at Marcus Today.

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"That is because of lot of macro issues, which are at play including the US-China trade talks and the expectations of decline in earnings per share during the US reporting season," he added.

Financial slipped 0.3 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks losing between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, with top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia losing most among them.

Mining stocks ran out of steam and were little changed after a 1.7 per cent surge in the previous session, shrugging off record high Chinese iron ore prices.

Top miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto staged a lacklustre performance, edging up 0.2 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively.

However, lithium miners such as Pilbara Minerals, Galaxy Resources and Kidman Resources slipped, offsetting BHP and Rio Tinto's marginal gains.

Energy stocks rose 2 per cent to a more than two-week high, as oil prices hit fresh five-month peaks due to Opec-led supply cuts and US sanctions.

Oil Search jumped 2.3 per cent after the company, along with France's Total SA and Exxon Mobil, signed a deal with Papua New Guinea to start work on a LNG project.

Crown Resorts, Australia's biggest casino firm, closed 19.7 per cent higher and was the top performer on the index, after it said it was in talks with Las Vegas rival Wynn Resorts about a potential A$10 billion (S$9.7 billion) buyout.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 per cent or 19.78 points to finish the session at 9,787.30. The top loser was retirement village operator Summerset Group Holdings, which slipped 3.8 per cent. 

REUTERS