May 3, 2019 / 1:56 AM / a month ago

Australia shares flat; NZ dips

* Energy stocks dip to an over three week low

* Macquarie provides weak FY20 outlook

* New Zealand eases off record high

By Shreya Mariam Job

May 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares were barely changed on Friday as losses driven by energy stocks and a weaker outlook by Macquarie Group were partially offset by gains in the healthcare sector.

By 0129 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.04 percent, or 2.7 points lower than Thursday’s close, to stand at 6,335.7. The benchmark fell 0.6 percent on Thursday and is set to snap four weeks of gains.

Shares of investment bank Macquarie Group fell as much as 7 percent to the lowest since March 28 after it reported a 16.6 percent rise in full-year profit, but warned that it expected fiscal 2020 results to be slightly lower than the current year.

The company however raised its final dividend to A$3.6 from A$3.2 last year.

The Aussie financial subindex eased 0.7 percent in early trade before paring some of its losses.

Other financial firms have also reported disappointing full year results, including National Australia Bank which slashed its dividend for the first time in a decade.

Energy stocks weighed heavily on the benchmark falling as much as 1.3 percent to a more-than-three-week low.

Shares of heavyweight oil explorers Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search shed 1 percent each.

Oil plunged on Thursday, with U.S. crude prices dropping almost 3 percent due to oversupply fears as U.S. crude oil inventories rose sharply and tighter U.S. sanctions on Iran were having a more gradual impact than had been expected.

Gold stocks also slipped 0.3 percent lower after bullion prices fell to four-month lows.

Shares of gold miners Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources dropped 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Defensive stocks like export-oriented healthcare stocks climbed 0.4 percent with index heavyweight and drug manufacturer CSL advancing 0.5 percent and medical device developer Resmed gaining 6.7 percent following an upbeat third quarter results.

“Healthcare stocks are doing well today with all the other sectors either flat or marginally in front... We are looking at a holding pattern ahead of the weekend,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

Looking ahead for cues for next week, McGlew singled out U.S. unemployment figures, due for release later in the global day.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 percent or 34.86 points to 10,050.89, coming off a record high hit on Thursday.

Shares of Meridian Energy and Ryman Healthcare dropped 0.4 percent each.

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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