September 26, 2017 / 3:42 AM / a year ago

Australia shares flat, weak commodity prices curb gains; NZ up slightly

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Australia’s benchmark share index was little changed on Tuesday, with basic materials and financials falling on weak commodity prices and a dip in Wall Street, but losses were offset by gains in energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched down 0.06 percent, or 3.33 points to 5,680.4 by 0329 GMT. The benchmark closed up 0.7 percent on Monday.

Material and consumer stocks led the losses.

“Part of the fall in the market is the global sentiment coming out of the U.S., and also weak commodities, so we see the resources being negative, especially the big guys, and the banks starting to roll over,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

The metals and mining index slipped as much as 0.5 percent to almost a five-week low, hurt by a plunge in coking coal and iron ore prices.

Coking coal was down more than 5 percent as some Chinese factories reopened after recent environmental inspections, adding to glut worries, while iron ore prices edged lower as the market continued to worry about waning restocking demand at mills.

Heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto both dived to their lowest in over a month, down as much as 0.9 percent.

Financials tracked a dip in Wall Street due to a selloff in technology shares, and the latest statement from North Korea to Washington which kept investors on edge.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell as much as 0.5 percent, its lowest level in two weeks, while the other “Big Four” banks gained between 0.1 percent and 0.4 percent.

Meanwhile, Australia’s energy index gained as much as 2.5 percent, its highest in nearly four months, as Brent prices climbed to their highest in over two years in the previous session.

“A bounce in oil prices is pushing the energy stocks... (but) oil prices are more range-bound near the mid fifties. I will be a seller of the sector if it gets to somewhere around mid-forties, that’s when you want to buy this sector. At this point, it’s closer to a sell than a buy,” said Somasundaram.

Santos Ltd soared to more than a 8-month high while Woodside Petroleum Ltd rose 3.1 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained marginally at 0.1 percent, or 8.21 points to 7,877.98, after closing at a four-week high on Monday.

Consumer staples and information technology stocks led the gains.

Specialist outdoor retailer Kathmandu Holdings Ltd was the top gainer on the index, jumping as much as 7.5 percent to a three-week low after posting a 13.5 percent rise in annual profit.

New Zealand business sentiment fell to its lowest level in two years in September, an ANZ Bank survey showed on Tuesday, partly due to its present political uncertainty.

The ruling National Party won the most seats in Saturday’s general election, but failed to secure enough to form a government.

Reporting By Christina Martin in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Aditya Soni; Editing by Kim Coghill

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