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NZ stocks rise on confidence, Australian shares fall on uncertainty

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[SYDNEY] New Zealand shares edged slightly higher on Tuesday, while Australian shares fell 0.96 per cent, with the financial sector hgardest hit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 50.88 points to reach 5,230.9 points by 0204 GMT on Tuesday.

"The selling is broad based, with only the materials sector in the green on the back of stronger iron ore prices and continued interest in gold plays," said Chris Conway, Head of Research at Australian Stock Report.

"With vote counting resuming today regarding the Federal election, that's another risk that has been brought to the fore and traders and investors are simply booking some gains."

"We had nothing in the way of positive leads this morning and with US markets closed (on Monday), it gave little direction."

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Financials led the index lower, ahead of a central bank meeting later on Tuesday where rates are expected to be held at all-time lows.

Stock prices for all four major banks edged lower. Commonwealth Bank of Australia was down 1.06 per cent, Westpac Banking Corp fell 1.35 per cent, National Australia Bank Ltd lost 1.76 per cent and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd was 1.43 per cent lower.

Wesfarmers Ltd shares tracked 1.5 per cent lower and resources stocks reversed early gains, with BHP Billiton falling 0.31 per cent and Fortescue Metals Group dropping 1.41 per cent, even as iron ore prices rallied.

Stocks in mining junior Western Areas Ltd surged 5.65 per cent on higher nickel prices. Whitehaven Coal Ltd rose 5.56 per cent and mining services operator Worley Parsons Ltd climbed 2.4 per cent.

Shares in medicinal marijuana producer MMJ Phytotech gained 8.51 per cent on news that Canadian health authorities had moved closer to legalising the drug.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Oil Search Ltd shares both tracked oil prices lower, with Woodside losing 0.52 per cent and Oil Search falling 0.14 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was trading 0.3 per cent higher or 21 points at 6,960.73 on Tuesday.

Sentiment got a lift after New Zealand business confidence rebounded in the second quarter, a private think tank said on Tuesday.

Investors were chasing yield in a low interest rate environment, said Macquarie Equities Investment Advisor Brad Gordon.

The biggest gainers were Meridian Energy, which rose 2.5 per cent and Skellerup, which rose 1.6 per cent.

The biggest losers included Genesis Energy, down 1.6 per cent.


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