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Australian shares steady; NZ stocks tread water

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended little changed on Wednesday as strength in energy and materials stocks was countered by declines in banks and industrials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.70 points to 6,195.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark slipped 0.2 per cent on Tuesday.

Gains on the index were driven by global miner BHP, which advanced 1.8 per cent, underpinned by higher iron ore and oil prices.

Among other miners, Rio Tinto Ltd firmed 0.4 per cent, while South32 Ltd jumped 0.3 per cent.

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Energy stocks also rose, with oil-focused firms Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd climbing 1.4 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

Higher oil prices put pressure on shares of Qantas Airways Ltd, which dropped 2 per cent to its lowest since June 5.

Other industrial sector stocks also fell, with rail operator Aurizon Holdings declining 2.9 per cent to a two-week low.

Financials were also in the red, with National Australia Bank Ltd sliding 0.7 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp dropped 0.2 per cent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged up 0.1 per cent or 6.72 points to finish the session at 8,996.52.

New Zealand business confidence sank to a seven-month low in June, a survey by ANZ Bank showed on Wednesday, reinforcing recent signs the country's economy was losing some of its gloss after years of strong growth.

Telecommunication services were the dominant gainers, with Spark New Zealand Ltd jumping 1.8 per cent.

REUTERS