(Updates with opening levels)
SYDNEY, Dec 31 Australian shares fell 0.5
percent in early trading on Monday, with big miners and banks
losing grounds as investors waited on the outcome of a
last-chance round of U.S. budget talks ahead of the New Year's
Shares in Fairfax Media Ltd jumped more than 5
percent after a consortium of allies of shareholder Gina
Rinehart purchased a small holding to add to the mining mogul's
Sundance Resources Ltd soared more than 14 percent
after media reported China's Hanlong Group would finalize its
takeover by March 1.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 23.2 points to
4,647.3 at 2318 GMT. It rose 0.5 percent to 4,671.3 on Friday,
its highest close since June 2, 2011.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.3
percent to 4,069.8.
Both the Australian and New Zealand markets will have
shortened sessions on Monday, New Year's Eve.
The Australian market is up 14.6 percent in 2012, while the
NZ market has risen 24.2 percent.
(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by John Mair)