Australian shares close lower as energy, mining stocks drag

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  • ASX 200 down for third straight session
  • Healthcare, gold stocks top gainers
  • NZ stocks enter correction territory

March 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on Tuesday, pulled down by energy and mining stocks, as investors grappled with the prospect of a U.S. ban on oil imports from Russia, while New Zealand equities entered correction territory.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) closed 0.8% lower at 6,980.30, extending losses to a third session.

Oil prices see-sawed near 14-year highs as the United States considered acting alone to ban Russian oil imports rather than teaming up with its European allies.

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Energy stocks (.AXEJ) slid 3.6% in their worst session in more than a month, after jumping 5.3% in the previous session. Sector heavyweights Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) and Santos (STO.AX) dropped 4.2% and 3.8%, respectively.

"There might be a bit of profit-taking going on," said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.

"Big resources, commodities and energy stocks are definitely going upward and I don't see that changing."

Viva Energy (VEA.AX) declined 4.2% as the refiner said it would stop buying Russian crude oil, joining a growing number of companies including Ampol (ALD.AX) to sever trade ties with the country over its invasion of Ukraine. read more

Iron ore prices fell for the first time in seven sessions, sending the Australian metals and mining sub-index (.AXMM) down 3.6% to its worst session in more than a week.

Rio Tinto (RIO.AX), Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX) and BHP Group (BHP.AX) fell between 3.7% and 4.5%.

Meanwhile, shares of export-focused healthcare companies (.AXHJ) advanced 1.9%. Imugene (IMU.AX) and CSL led the gains, rising 4.4% and 2.8% respectively.

Gold stocks (.AXGD) added 1.2% after bullion prices rose overnight. Northern Star Resources (NST.AX) and Newcrest Mining (NCM.AX) ended 1.2% and 1.1% higher, respectively.

Financials (.AXFJ) closed flat, with two of the "Big Four" banks up between 0.2% and 1%.

Data on Tuesday showed the country's business conditions rebounded in February as Omicron cases reduced and supply bottlenecks across industries eased. read more

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) fell 1.4% to 11,744.95, retreating 10.7% since hitting a record closing high on Jan. 5.

Air New Zealand (AIR.NZ) was down 6.5%, while Auckland International Airport (AIA.NZ) dropped 2.9%.

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Reporting by Upasana Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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