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SYDNEY Feb 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares pared early gains to end 0.1 percent higher on Thursday as strong company earnings were offset by a survey showing activity in China's factories shrank again in February as employment fell at the fastest pace in five years.
The S&P/ASX 200 index added 4.1 points to 5,412.3 after hitting an intraday high of 5,441.5. The benchmark rose 0.3 percent on Wednesday and is currently sitting at three-month highs. .
The flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell to a seven-month low of 48.3 in February from January's final reading of 49.5, a preliminary private survey showed on Thursday.
China is Australia's largest export market.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1 percent to 4,909.8. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Borsuk)