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March 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares barely changed in lacklustre trade on Tuesday as gains for miners, pulled up by rising metal prices, were effectively cancelled out by falls in financial stocks.
Financial stocks were lower ahead of U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, starting later on Tuesday, which markets believe will bring a hike in U.S. interest rates.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.03 percent, or 1.753 points, to 5,759.1 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 0.32 percent in the previous session.
Two of the ‘Big 4’ banks lost 0.7 percent. However, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was 0.2 percent higher while Australia and New Zealand Bank ended flat.
Copper-iron ore miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals gained between 0.6 percent and 0.9 percent.
BHP Billiton snapped five straight losing sessions and logged its best day since March 2.
Chinese steel and iron ore futures extended steep gains fron the previous session, and London copper edged higher on Tuesday, both supported by positive data from China.
Gold miners Newcrest Mining and St. Barbara gained 0.14 percent and 5.3 percent respectively as gold prices steadied in anticipation of the expected Fed rate hike.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.25 percent or 17.7 points to finish the session at 7,177.09.
Falls in industrial stocks Auckland International Airport of nearly 1 percent and Air New Zealand of 2.2 percent dragged the index lower. (Reporting by Susan Mathew; Editing by Richard Borsuk)