February 28, 2017 / 6:24 AM / in 9 months

Australia shares fall for 4th day as markets brace for Trump speech; NZ up

(Updates to close)

Feb. 28 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell for the fourth straight session on Tuesday, erasing earlier gains, as investors buckled up for U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech to Congress later in the day.

Trump is expected use the major policy speech to a joint session of Congress to preview some elements of his plans on infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose as much as 0.6 percent earlier in the session but ended down 0.2 percent, or nearly 12 points, at 5,712.2.

For the month of February, the benchmark index gained 1.6 percent.

Basic materials and consumer staples widened losses on Tuesday, offsetting gains in the energy sector.

Gold stocks were the biggest drag on the materials sector, with St Barbara shedding 11.2 percent and Resolute Mining tanking 12.3 percent, its biggest percentage loss in 19 months.

Major miner Rio Tinto was 0.8 percent lower, while peer BHP Billiton was flat.

Consumer stocks were pulled down by retailer Woolworths , which shed 1.6 percent.

On the other hand, the energy sector managed to hold onto its gains on the back of higher oil prices.

Oil major Santos Ltd added 2.2 percent.

Engineering firm WorleyParsons Ltd, however, was the star of the sector, jumping 32 percent after Dubai-based private network of professional services firms Dar Group took a stake in the company.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 1.2 percent, or 88.28 points, higher at 7,167.46. The rise took its gains in February to 1.7 percent.

Gains were broad-based with financials, industrials, and healthcare leading the way.

Metlifecare Ltd and Chorus Ltd were the biggest gainers on the benchmark, each adding over 3 percent.

Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill

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