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Australasia, News

Australia shares inch lower after five days of gains; NZ up

* BHP posts 11% drop in H1 NSW thermal coal output

* Energy stocks hit one-week low

* Financials down for 3rd session

By Shreya Mariam Job

Jan 21 (Reuters) – Australian shares edged lower on Tuesday as investors booked profits after five straight sessions of gains, with financials and industrials taking some of the biggest hits.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dipped 0.3%, or 20.70 points, to 7,058.80 by 0102 GMT after a 0.2% gain on Monday.

“Cautious is the right way to summarise the start we’re seeing here in trading,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Investors are weary given the index’s strong gains and expect a downward movement in the short term, he added.

The benchmark index breached the 7,000 mark for the first time last week and had risen 5.9% this year by last close.

“Some of the selling we are seeing here is investors locking in gains ahead of what might be a downdraft,” McCarthy said.

Meanwhile, top miner BHP Group reported an 11% drop in New South Wales thermal coal output in the first half due to Australian bushfires, but maintained its full-year forecast. For the December quarter, the miner, however, posted a 3% rise in iron ore production.

BHP shares dropped about 1% before cutting losses. Material stocks, however, were little changed with gold miners offsetting most of the losses.

The gold index rose 0.4%, underpinned by overnight gains in the metal.

Silver Lake Resources Ltd and Perseus Mining were the top gainers, rising 4.7% and 2.3%, respectively.

Financials weighed heavily on the benchmark index, shedding about 0.4% in their third straight session of losses.

All the “Big Four” banks traded in the red, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia declining 0.6%, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dipped 0.2%.

Energy stocks also ticked lower, falling as much as 0.6% to their lowest in a week.

Viva Energy Group slipped 1.3% to its lowest level since Oct. 21. Whitehaven Coal, another company hurt by bushfires, dropped about 1.6%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3%, or 29.34 points, to 11,776.29.

Contact Energy rose 2.2%, while Fletcher Building gained 0.9%. (Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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