Australian shares end flat as gains for Telstra, QBE offset miners’ losses

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(Updates to close)

Aug 16 (Reuters) – Australian shares closed unchanged on Thursday, as a sell-off in materials was offset by gains in Telstra Corporation Ltd and QBE Insurance Group Ltd .

The S&P/ASX 200 index inched 0.01 percent lower to 6328.30 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

Chinese iron ore futures slumped more than 4 percent to a two-week low on Thursday, driving the weakness in materials stocks which accounted for most of the losses on the main index.

The metals and mining index dropped 2 percent to its lowest since April 18. Global miner BHP fell 2.3 percent to its lowest in more than three weeks, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd fell 1.3 percent to its lowest in seven months.

Origin Energy Ltd piled on the losses as it fell 6.8 percent when underlying earnings in its energy markets business fell short of expectations.

Telstra Corp Ltd, Australia’s biggest telecom company, jumped 5.5 percent to its highest in more than three months.

Telstra posted a fall in annual profits that was lower than expected and showed signs of growth in its cloud computing business, giving its long-suffering investors some comfort.

QBE Insurance Group Ltd climbed 6.9 percent to its highest since Jan. 29.

The insurer said its first-half net profit had risen thanks to improved performance in several regions and the benefit its new streamlined structure after offloading several of businesses over the past year.

In New Zealand the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index firmed 0.1 percent or 11.42 points to finish the session at 8,998.91.

Gains were led by Fletcher Building and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation, respectively ending the day 1 percent and 0.7 percent higher.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru
Editing by Eric Meijer

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