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Australia shares end flat as energy stocks offset gains in gold, financials

Credit: REUTERS/DAVID GRAY

By Rajasik Mukherjee

March 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares were flat on Tuesday as losses in energy stocks countered gains in banks and gold stocks, while traders awaited U.S. inflation data for insight on the timing of the Federal Reserve's rate cuts.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO closed up 0.1% to 7,712.50. The benchmark had declined 1.8% on Wednesday, quashing last week's record highs.

Last month, a hotter-than-expected consumer reading sent shivers down the Australian market and dampened hopes for an early rate cut.

"If the CPI data suggests that the timeline for rate cuts is moving closer, stocks and other risk assets could get a bump higher," said Tim Waterer, chief market analyst at KCM Trade.

"The RBA meeting next week likely be more about the messaging rather than anything else. They are likely to remain on hold, but the question is how much a recent spate of weaker macro data has influenced the tone of the RBA," Waterer added.

Gold stocks .AXGD ended 2.4% higher, hitting their best level since Jan. 15 and were the biggest gainers on the benchmark index on strength in bullion prices. GOL/

Northern Star Resources NST.AX and Evolution Mining EVN.AX gained 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively.

Financials .AXFJ rose 0.2%. Gains in Westpac Banking WBC.AX and ANZ Group ANZ.AX countered losses in Commonwealth Bank of Australia CBA.AX and National Australia Bank NAB.AX.

Miners .AXMM edged 0.1% higher. Alumina AWC.AX gained 8.1%, hitting its highest level since Aug. 21 on agreeing to a $2.2 billion buyout offer from Alcoa AA.N.

On the other hand, energy stocks .AXEJ declined 0.8%, with Woodside Energy WDS.AX and Santos STO.AX shedding 1.2% and 0.6%, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 fell 0.4% to close at 11,829.1800. The country's main measure of monthly retail activity showed a 1.8% drop in electronic retail card spending for February.

(Reporting by Rajasik Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Varun H K)

((Rajasik.Mukherjee@thomsonreuters.com))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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