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Australia shares fall in muted response to stance; weak commodities weigh

03/02/2021 | 01:13am

* RBA holds cash rate and 3-yr yield target at 0.1%

* Gold stocks hit 10-month low as bullion prices slide

* Energy firms, miners fall over 1%

March 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Tuesday, as the market appeared to show muted response towards the central bank's expected decision to stand pat on interest rates, while weak commodity prices also pressured miners and energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.4% at 6,762.3 at the close of trade, having risen as much as 1% during the session. The benchmark closed 1.7% higher on Monday.

At its monthly board meeting, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) re-committed to keeping interest rates at historic lows as policymakers attempt to stop surging bond yields from disrupting the country's economic recovery.

RBA's actions suggest that the market could expect it to step in with additional purchases if the global yields rise further, "especially if the local sell-off remains more accentuated than elsewhere," Citi Research analysts said in a note.

A lull in company news after the end of the earnings season, weak commodity prices, and caution ahead of the GDP data led to investors treading waters, Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec said.

Energy, gold and mining sub-indexes ended in the red after dropping more than 1%. Heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto shed about 2% and 0.5%, respectively. Oil firms Woodside Petroleum and Santos each dropped more than 2%.

Australian gold stocks dived 3% to their lowest levels in more than 10 months, as bullion prices hit an 8-1/2-month low.

Evolution Mining, St Barbara and Newcrest Mining posted losses of up to 3%.

Bucking the trend, financials ended 0.4% higher, with all the "Big Four" banks ending in the green.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3% to finish the session at 12,344.49 points.

Mirroring the stance of central banks around the world, New Zealand's central bank is in no rush to tighten monetary policy, assistant governor Christian Hawkesby said. (Reporting by Shruti Sonal in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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