Banks, miners weigh on Australia shares ahead of RBA meeting

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Jan 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Monday, as a rally in technology stocks failed to offset losses among banking and mining heavyweights, while investors cautiously await cues from the central bank's monetary policy meeting expected this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 index (.AXJO) closed 0.24% lower at 6,971.6, after losing as much as 0.8% earlier in the session. The benchmark ended 2.2% higher on Friday.

The banking index (.AXFJ) lost 1.8%, with the country's four largest lenders losing between 1.6% and 3.4%, ahead of Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) meeting on Tuesday.

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"We might see QE wrap up in March and the rate rises kick off in June," said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst and portfolio manager, Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

Rate hikes might get complicated by Australia's upcoming federal elections in May, and which might move the RBA to talk about hikes but not make any policy decisions, Jennings said.

A Reuters poll showed that market participants expect the RBA to end bond-buying programme on Tuesday, but wait until November to raise interest rates. read more

Miners (.AXMM) also retreated 0.6%, weighed down by BHP Group's (BHP.AX) 1.2% slump on the day its corporate unification with its London-listed entity became effective. Several brokerages also expect this to result in BHP's weightage on the banchmark index to rise to more than 10%. read more

Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) lost 1.9%, while Fortescue (FMG.AX) added 2.2%.

The technology sector (.AXIJ) saw a 3.7% gain, tracking a strong finish on Friday in Wall Street's Nasdaq index, as investors took advantage of cheap tech stocks following last week's selloff.

Medical glove maker Ansell Ltd (ANN.AX) plunged 14.3% to its lowest level since March 2020 after the company slashed its full-year EPS outlook on supply chain disruptions.

Meanwhile, Irongate Group (IAP.AX) surged 17.5% to a record high after the real-estate investor received a A$1.29 billion ($905.06 million) takeover bid from a partnership managed by property investor Charter Hall Group (CHC.AX). read more

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index (.NZ50) climbed 0.31% to 11,889.4.

($1 = 1.4253 Australian dollars)

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Reporting by Harshita Swaminathan; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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