(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Cecile Lefort and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, July 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed on Tuesday, having proved resilient to sliding stocks in China as strength in the energy sector offset fragile sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was steady at 5,589 at 03:40 GMT, having seen a sharp reversal when it was down nearly 1 percent in earlier trade. The benchmark was on track for a 2.4 percent gain for the month.
“It’s another volatile session with no real reason for the sudden improvement,” said Steven Daghlian, an analyst at CommSec, adding that markets are still edgy about China.
The Shanghai stock market shed 1 percent in early trade following Monday’s largest single-day drop in more than eight years on concerns about the Asian giant’s growth. China is Australia’s top export market and a big buyer of natural resources.
Australia's energy sector was among the outperformers with a 1 percent gain. Origin Energy jumped 3.4 percent after it announced its Australia-Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas project was on track to meet its export target. reut.rs/1OxHqXv
Origin’s share price touched a six-month trough last week. Santos rose 0.7 percent, while Woodside Petroleum added 1.2 percent.
Financial stocks were mixed with ANZ Banking Group, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank up between 0.1 and 0.5 percent, but Westpac Banking Corp was down 0.6 percent.
Miners also had mixed fortunes with global giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto a touch firmer, while iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group was 2 percent higher.
Yet, Atlas Iron dropped nearly 3 percent as investors continued to ditch Australia’s fourth-biggest iron ore miner amid a bleak outlook for the sector. Atlas tumbled 70 percent on Monday in the heaviest volume ever in the stock - 266.4 million shares - after coming off a 12-week trading halt.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining slipped 3.2 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX50 share index was 0.4 percent lower at 5,851.57.
Most leading stocks took a hit with the biggest dips being software developer Xero down 2.6 percent, casino company Sky City down 1.2 percent, and pay television operator Sky TV down 1.6 percent.
The bigger price moves, up and down, were in small- and medium-cap shares although there was little company specific news to move prices.
Retirement village operator Summerset Group rose as much as 1.7 percent to hit a record high as it said it had bought a block of land for a new village in the biggest city Auckland.
Other listed retirement home operators Metlifecare and Ryman Healthcare were modestly higher. For more individual stocks activity click on (Editing by Eric Meijer)