* ASX 200 flat, banks slip, gold miners tread higher
* 97 shares are higher, 79 lower and 24 unchanged
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 28 Australian shares
steadied on Monday to recover from an earlier dip as a weakness
on Wall Street and metal prices was offset by an uptick in gold,
though the financials dragged slightly as investors mostly stood
at the sidelines.
Banks took the market lower with Commonwealth Bank of
Australia, the top bank by market capitalisation was
down 0.3 percent, while Australia's second biggest bank by
market value, Westpac Banking Corp, lost 0.5 percent.
National Australia Bank Ltd bucked the trend,
adding 0.2 percent after it agreed to sell a 625 million pound
($1 billion) portfolio of mostly non-performing UK commercial
property loans to an affiliate of private equity firm Cerberus
Elsewhere, Australia's No. 2 private hospital company
Healthscope Ltd debuted at its listing price of A$2.10,
in the country's biggest listing since 2010.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 1.9 points to 5,581.6
by 0215 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.1 percent on Friday, but
added 0.9 percent for the week.
The benchmark index touched a six-year intraday peak of
5,598.2 on July 23, underpinned by incremental rises on signs of
China's economy regaining momentum, while a strong earnings
season in the United States also buoyed investor sentiment.
"Technical resistance around 5,600 might be a litmus test
for the health of the reporting season in the immediate future,"
said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in a note.
"A clear move above this would indicate increasing
confidence that next year's earnings will be good enough to
justify another push to post-GFC highs."
The gold sector buoyed the broader market as bullion prices
rebounded after heightened tensions between Russia and the West
over Ukraine prompted speculators to buy back their bearish
Northern Star Resources Ltd bounced 4.8 percent,
while Australia's top gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd
climbed 1.5 percent. Silver Lake Resources jumped 5.5
percent after reaching an agreement with Newcrest Operations Ltd
to acquire Newcrest's 15 percent Mount Monger joint venture
Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Ltd rocketed 25.8 percent
to A$2.12, its highest since May 2013 after the company received
an unsolicited bid for the company from Retrophin Inc.
REA Group Ltd has acquired a 17.2 percent
shareholding in iProperty Group, which soared 9.9
percent to four-month highs of A$3.43 on the news.
Leighton Holdings Ltd dropped 2.9 percent after
saying its half year net profit fell to A$291.3 million from
A$366.2 million, and declared an interim dividend of A$0.57 per
Navitas Ltd declined 2.3 percent after reporting
its net profit after tax was 31 percent lower to A$51.6 million.
New Zealand stocks were a touch softer, drifting away from
the five-week high touched on Friday.
The benchmark NZX-50 index was down 9.2 points or
0.2 percent at 5,185.10, although price gains were outpacing the
number of falls.
The market was enlivened by two takeover bids for small-cap
The major shareholders in private hospital operator Acurity
Ltd made an offer to buy out minorities with a cash
offer of NZ$6.50 a share, a near 24 percent premium on Friday's
They said the stock was infrequently traded, lacked
institutional investors, and faced some significant capital
spending. Acurity last traded up 25.3 percent at NZ$6.58.
And vehicle auctioneer Turners Auctions Ltd surged
11.3 percent to NZ$3.06, after financial services company
Dorchester Pacific Ltd said it planned to offer
NZ$3.00, in cash or paper.
Dorchester, shares in which jumped 9.1 percent to NZ$0.24,
said it has already secured a 20 percent stake of another
shareholder to take its over all stake to 40.6 percent of
(Editing by Eric Meijer)