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Financials, commodities weigh on Australia shares; NZ lower


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended a touch lower on Tuesday as gains in utilities and consumer staples were offset by a dip in financials and commodity-related stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.07 per cent or 4.473 points to 5984.3 at the close of trade.

The utilities sector was the best performer on the mainboard, with its biggest constituents AGL Energy and Origin Energy leading the gains, up 1.2 per cent and 2.4 per cent, respectively.

Origin posted its sixth straight session of gains, hitting an over two-year high earlier in the day, after the company said it is targeting cost reductions at its Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) liquefied natural gas project in a bid to lower its debt.

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Origin also reaffirmed its full-year 2018 earnings guidance.

Gains in the consumer sector was led by retailing giants Woolworths Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd which rose 1.9 per cent and one per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark, with Westpac Banking Corp leading losses to fall to its lowest in over two months, losing 0.9 per cent.

Rivals National Australia Bank and ANZ slipped 0.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Mining major BHP was the biggest loser on the benchmark, falling 2 per cent, after as Chinese iron ore futures pulled back after eight days of gains.

Mining index heavyweights Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group slipped 0.8 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively.

Telecommunications services sector added to the losses, led by a dip in Telstra Corp which fell as much as 3.5 per cent, its lowest in over 5-1/2-years.

"I think the stock is falling due to two reasons. There has been news in the past few days that NBN has delayed the rollout of part of Telstra services. Also, the stock has been under pressure generally from the past few months," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Telstra on Monday noted an announcement from Australia's National Broadband Network Co that it would cease sales on hybrid fibre co-axial (HFC) technology for six to nine months from Dec 11.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.4 per cent lower, or 34.61 points, at at 8,141.49, after hitting a record earlier in the session.

Utilities and material stocks were the biggest drags on the main index, which saw broad-based losses.

Mercury NZ Ltd and Fletcher Building Ltd were the biggest decliners on the benchmark, sliding 2.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.