February 20, 2018 / 6:40 AM / a month ago

Australian shares end flat; NZ slips

(Updates to close)

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended flat on Tuesday as losses in financials and materials were offset by gains in energy and information technology stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.700 points to 5,940.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 0.6 percent on Monday.

Banks were the biggest drag on Tuesday, with the Australian financial index slipping 0.2 percent.

Westpac Banking Corp, the country’s second-biggest bank by market value, fell 0.8 percent and accounted for most of the losses while National Australia Bank Ltd declined 0.5 percent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd fell 0.3 percent despite reporting lower impaired assets for the first quarter.

Materials stocks added to the losses, with miners BHP and Rio Tinto Ltd falling 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent respectively.

After market hours, BHP, reported a 25 percent rise in underlying half-year profit , helped by robust commodity prices.

Super Retail Group Ltd plunged 14.5 percent to its lowest in more than three years.

The outdoor equipment retailer reported a 3 percent fall in first-half profit and announced a A$135 million ($106.88 mln) takeover of outdoor recreation brand Macpac.

Conversely, energy stocks gained, helped by overnight gains in oil prices.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Australia’s biggest independent gas and oil producer, climbed 1.6 percent, while Origin Energy Ltd added 1 percent.

Information technology stocks also gained. Software developer Altium Ltd surged 26.7 percent to be the day’s top percentage gainer.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 percent or 16.980 points to finish the session at 8,098.270.

Materials and health care stocks accounted for most of the losses, with Fletcher Building Ltd declining 1.4 percent and Ryman Healthcare Ltd dipping 1.6 percent. ($1 = 1.2631 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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