Australian shares end lower as energy stocks, miners drag

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Feb 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Tuesday, impacted by energy firms as oil prices fell on profit-taking and weak iron ore prices drove down miners over Ukraine-Russia tensions, although technology stocks helped limit losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) fell 0.5% to 7,206.90 in its lowest close since Feb. 11. The benchmark was up 0.4% on Monday.

"General sentiment is weak and uncertain," said Mathan Somasundaram, chief executive officer of Deep Data Analytics.

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"Russia/Ukraine (tensions) remains a major risk, but we may not see this resolve in the next few days."

Energy stocks (.AXEJ) were the top losers on the benchmark, sliding 3.1% to mark their worst day in three weeks, as investors took profits from the previous day's oil prices rally.

Major oil and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AX) and Santos (STO.AX) dropped 2.5% and 4.2%, respectively.

Low iron ore prices sent miners (.AXMM) 1.2% down as traders fretted over warnings from top consumer China's regulators against recent unusual price moves.

Sector heavyweights Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) and Fortescue Metals Group (FMG.AX) slipped 2.3% and 5.1%, respectively.

Rival BHP Group (BHP.AX) gave up early gains to close 0.3% lower after posting an estimate-beating first-half profit and record dividend payout. read more

On the contrary, technology stocks (.AXIJ) advanced 1% with Xero Ltd (XRO.AX) and WiseTech Global (WTC.AX) rising about 0.3%, while Block Inc's Australian shares jumped 4.2%.

Somasundaram said tech stocks will unwind as bond yields keep climbing, adding that they were also "benefiting from RBA claiming to not raise (interest rates) anytime soon."

Minutes of Reserve Bank of Australia's February meeting showed that it is prepared to be patient on policy as wage growth continues to lag even as inflation picks up. read more

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) fell 0.1% to finish at 11,938.32.

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Reporting by Upasana Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber

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