October 31, 2018 / 1:09 AM / in 21 days

Australia shares little changed on investor caution; NZ advances

* Benchmark on track to post biggest monthly drop in 2018

* Energy, financial stocks gain

* Metal, healthcare shares under pressure

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed on Wednesday, as gains in energy and financial stocks were offset by losses in metal and healthcare firms, with the benchmark on track to post its biggest monthly loss this year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.1 percent or 8.4 points to 5,813.50 by 0038 GMT.

“We are running into some decent technical resistance,” said Greg McKenna, an independent analyst. “Realistically, we are just being cautious because of the volatility after what has been a cracking day in the local markets yesterday.”

The Aussie benchmark, however, has shed more than 6 percent in October, with two sessions of heavy falls following global sell-offs.

The Sino-U.S. trade war, rising U.S treasury yields, uncertainty over Italy’s budget and Brexit talks put global equity markets world under intense pressure in October.

Energy stocks extended their gains to a third straight session on the day, rising as much as 1.4 percent, its biggest intra-day percentage gain in nearly a month.

Caltex Australia and Woodside Petroleum were among the top percentage gainers in the energy index, gaining about 4 percent and over 2 percent, respectively.

Three of the four major banks gained in morning trade, including the top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia , which rose as much as 1.6 percent, after it said it would sell its global asset management unit for A$4.1 billion ($2.9 billion) to Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group .

The country’s No. 3 lender Australia & New Zealand Banking Corp rose as much as 1.9 percent to a near three-week high despite reporting a 5 percent decline in its full-year cash profits.

Weaker mining and healthcare stocks restrained broader sentiment, however, with indexes for those sectors dropping as much as 1 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively.

Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto were among decliners amid fresh worries about the U.S.-China trade war.

“Copper really came under pressure last night and it’s a sea of red on zinc, tin and nickel and pretty much everything,” added McKenna.

Aluminium slumped to its lowest in more than a year in overnight trading while LME copper dropped 2.1 percent.

Index heavyweight CSL Ltd led the losses in the healthcare stocks, dropping as much as 1.9 percent. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 percent or 46.56 points to 8,697.50.

Retailer Kathmandu Holdings was the top percentage gainer on the New Zealand benchmark, rising as much as 5.5 percent.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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