March 14 (Reuters) - Australian shares steadied on Tuesday ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, with gains in materials stocks offsetting losses in financials and healthcare shares.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.03 percent, or 2.75 points, to 5,754.60 points by 0151 GMT.
Investors were hesitant to take big bets ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting that starts later on Tuesday. The Fed is widely expected to hike interest rates.
“I don’t think the Australian market is going to move strongly until we get the Fed decision,” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.
The S&P 500 finished flat at 0.04 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average closed marginally higher overnight.
In Australia, financials stocks reversed early gains with the ‘Big Four’ banks falling between 0.1 percent and 0.7 percent.
Healthcare stocks were the second biggest losers on the index, with biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd shedding 0.6 percent and medical device company Sirtex Medical Ltd losing 1 percent.
The metals and mining index rose as much as 1.9 percent after Shanghai steel rallied on Monday.
Shanghai rebar steel futures rose nearly 6 percent on Monday helped by an improvement in seasonal demand in China, which also lifted Chinese iron ore from a one-month low.
Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd gained 1.4 percent, snapping five sessions of losses. Rio Tinto Ltd rose 2.1 percent.
Energy stocks were the second biggest gainers on the index, with Origin Energy Ltd and Oil Search Ltd gaining 3.5 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
Crude oil prices hovered near three-month lows on Tuesday in early Asian trading as investors await key reports and data that may shed light on a supply overhang in the global market.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat after hitting a five-month high, helped by gains in consumer staples and telecom stocks. The index was down 6.41 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,188.38 points by 0152 GMT.
A2 Milk Company Ltd gained 1.9 percent, while Spark New Zealand Ltd climbed 0.4 percent.
Industrials and utilities stocks declined, with Auckland International Airport Ltd shedding 1.3 percent and Mercury NZ Ltd declining 2.1 percent. (Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran; Additional reporting By Krishna. V. Kurup; Editing by Randy Fabi)