* Benchmark index reverses earlier gains to trade flat
* Caution as Wall St dips over worries of early rate hike
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 27 Australian shares
were flat on Friday, as investors remained wary after U.S.
stocks dipped on worries that an interest rate hike could come
sooner than expected, though gains in the mining and defensive
sectors kept the market in check.
Banks reversed early gains as three of the four big lenders
traded ex-dividend. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
slipped 0.4 percent while Westpac Banking Corp
and National Australia Bank both declined 0.1 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 1.5 points to 5,462.8 by
0209 GMT after touching a 2-1/2-week high of 5,480 earlier in
The benchmark climbed 1.2 percent on Thursday, and is on
track to add 0.8 percent for the week which would be its best
weekly performance in two months.
"Once the market clues onto an imminent rate hike that may
be the precursor toward increased volatility and equity market
downside," said Tim Radford, global investment manager at Rivkin
Securities in a note.
"For now, however, market participant complacency and upside
in equities will likely continue."
Copper climbed to a session high of $6,954 a tonne, the
strongest since May 28, while iron ore .IO62-CNI=SI rose to
$95.30 overnight, continuing a recovery from last week's
Among miners, BHP Billiton Ltd was flat while Rio
Tinto Ltd added 0.3 percent. Sandfire Resources
climbed 1.2 percent.
A handful of defensive shares also ticked higher. Top
telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd
added 0.6 percent, while blood products maker CSL Ltd
rose 0.7 percent.
Tatts Group jumped 3 percent to A$3.22, its highest
since November 2013 after an Australian court ordered Victoria
state to pay the slot machine company A$451 million ($424
million) in compensation, plus interest, after ruling in favour
of the firm's claim that it lost earnings when the state moved
to liberalise the slot machine industry.
Elsewhere, Tabcorp Holdings Ltd tumbled 5.6 percent
as the Victorian Supreme Court ruled against its claim of A$690
million in compensation.
Toilet and tampon maker Asaleo Care Ltd debuted at
A$1.71 against an issue price of A$1.65.
Cockatoo Coal rocketed 25.9 percent to 7-week highs
of A$0.03 after saying its major shareholders are in an advanced
stage of discussion with JFE Soji Trade Corp regarding future
direction and its Baralaba joint venture.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index added 0.2
percent to 5,142.5, resuming trade after a three-hour halt due
to a technical hitch. The market was trading with a firm tone in
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)