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Miners weigh on Aussie shares; NZ gains on consumer stocks

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended flat in thin trade on Monday as investors took profits after recent gains in mining shares and awaited production data from a number of resource majors later in the week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed largely unchanged at 6,251.40. The benchmark had risen 0.8 per cent on Friday. Trading volumes for the day were about 30 per cent below the 30-day average.

Metals and mining stocks, which are the second largest sector on the benchmark, retreated as investors continued to lock in profits from a commodities-driven rally. The mining subindex declined for a fourth straight session after touching a near eight-year peak last week.

BHP Group, the largest stock on the ASX 200, dipped 0.1 per cent.

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Iron ore miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group had accounted for a bulk of last week's rally due to prices being pushed up by Chinese demand. The three will report production data for the March quarter later in the week.

Growth prospects for metal miners, especially copper, remain upbeat amid expectations that stronger credit growth in China will boost Chinese industrial demand, analysts at Jefferies said in a research note.

For the day, Rio Tinto ended slightly higher after it flagged further capital for a US-based copper project.

Gold miners weighed slightly on the benchmark as bullion prices retreated in the wake of stronger risk appetite.

On the other hand, financial stocks extended gains after reports on Friday that Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's largest lender, would cut jobs to boost profitability.

The financial subindex closed about 0.4 per cent higher, with CBA gaining nearly 0.8 per cent.

New Zealand shares closed higher, with consumer stocks also firming on the prospect of stronger Chinese demand. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose about 0.8 per cent or 78.02 points to finish the session at 9,846.35.

Dairy product exporters Synlait Milk and a2 Milk closed about 2.9 per cent and 4.2 per cent higher, respectively. 

REUTERS