December 27, 2017 / 5:40 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares end flat as banks offset resource stocks gains; NZ down

(Updates to close)

Dec 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed flat on Wednesday with declines in financial and industrials sectors offsetting strong gains in miners and energy stocks, made after rises in copper and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose 0.2 points to 6,069.900 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.2 percent on Friday.

Materials led gains on the benchmark on Wednesday, underpinned by a strengthening in copper prices, which rose to their highest in nearly three-and-a-half years.

The Australian metals and mining index climbed 1.1 percent to a near 5-year closing high, extending its winning streak to an 11th consecutive session. Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto added 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.

Energy stocks outperformed all other sectors on the benchmark, supported by a surge in oil prices, which rose to 2-1/2-year highs in light trading volume on Tuesday, before slipping on Wednesday.

Oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum gained 0.6 percent to an over one and a half month high, while Oil Search Ltd added 1.3 percent.

Conversely, higher oil prices contributed to selling in Qantas Airways, which fell 2.5 percent to its lowest since May 31.

“I think Qantas is being affected by where the oil prices are headed. We have been looking at oil prices as a positive sector for past couple of months and that’s playing out right now,” said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist at Blue Ocean Equities

Financials accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark, with index heavyweight Commonwealth Bank of Australia falling 0.3 percent.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reversed earlier gains in the session to dip 0.2 percent, or 20 points, to finish the session at 8,376.430.

Utilities accounted for most of the losses, with Mercury NZ Ltd declining 2.2 percent to close at its lowest since Dec. 11.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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