Australia shares dip on materials and energy stocks; NZ edges higher

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* Materials stocks drag Aussie shares

* Weaker iron ore futures hit miners

* Origin leads losses in energy stocks

* NZ rises marginally

By Aditya Soni

Aug 16 (Reuters) – Australian shares dipped on Thursday, as a 4 percent drop in Chinese iron ore futures led to a sell-off in materials, while energy stocks fell on lower oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 percent or 17.30 points to 6,311.70 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark added 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

“Strengthening U.S. dollar and a poor report of inventories out of the U.S. for oil, has weighed on the commodities complex,” Michael McCarthy, Chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking said.

Chinese iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange fell as much as 4.3 percent on Thursday, leading to a slump in Australian materials stocks.

Mining stocks accounted for half of the losses on the main index, with the metals and mining index trading 2.8 percent lower at its weakest since April 16.

Mining behemoth BHP fell 3.6 percent to a more than three-week low, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 2.7 percent to a near eight-month low.

Origin Energy Ltd weakened as much as 7.7 percent, leading losses in the energy sector after underlying earnings of its energy markets business fell short of the its expectations.

The wider energy index fell 2.1 percent, hurt by a slide in oil futures.

Other blue chips in the sector, Oil Search Ltd and Santos Ltd fell 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

However, teleco Telstra Corporation Ltd and QBE Insurance Group Ltd gained, braking the slide of the benchmark.

Telstra rose 5.2 percent and was the biggest boost to the benchmark after posting a lower-than-expected annual profit drop.

Shares of QBE rose 7 percent to a more than six month high. The insurer said its first-half net profit rose, helped by an improved performance in several regions and a more streamlined structure after offloading several of its businesses over the past year.

Other insurance stocks also gained, with Insurance Australia Group Ltd rising 2.1 after declining 5.8 percent in the previous session.

New Zealand shares ticked up, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rising 0.2 percent or 14.61 points to 9,002.19.

Industrials and health care stocks underpinned the bullish sentiment, with Auckland International Airport Ltd firming 1.3 percent, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd strengthened 0.3 percent to a more than one-week high. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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