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australian-stocksSYDNEY: Australian shares slipped 0.1 percent on Monday, paring early gains to trade flat as investors consolidated a recent rally on US data showing a steady pace of jobs growth and brisk expansion in the services sector.


Major banks ended the day moderately higher with Australia New Zealand Banking Group Ltd leading gains, up 0.6 percent. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the trend, dropping 1 percent after hitting an all-time high of A$63.70 during morning trade.


Defensives were mixed. Australia's No.1 telecommunications provider, Telstra, lost 0.7 percent, while multi-sector retailer Wesfarmers added 0.5 percent.


The S&P/ASX 200 index was 6.5 points lower at 4,717.3. It fell 16.9 points on Friday after reaching 19-month highs earlier in the week.


"It just seems like the markets are entering a consolidation phase after recent gains and with most markets trading at fresh 12-month highs," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG Markets. "After having responded well to the leads from US trade and pushing to a fresh high of 4,750.7 earlier, the market has given up all its early gains."


Mining magnate BHP Billiton Ltd was down 0.3 percent. Rival iron ore miner Rio Tinto Ltd plumbed 1.7 percent after it announced it is considering the suspension of operations in the Northern Territory after talks with the government over power supplies to the plant broke down last month.


Gold miners also ended the day weaker with Newcrest Mining Ltd down 1.2 percent and Silverlake Ltd losing 0.2 percent.


Lynas Crop Ltd jumped 14.4 percent after it said it expects to produce commercial rare earth products in the next few months from its controversial plant in Malaysia after commissioning the plant's cracking and leaching units.


Whitehaven Coal Ltd finished 0.6 percent lower. A hoax media release on Monday that said Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd had withdrawn a A$1.2 billion ($1.25 billion) loan to Whitehaven Coal sank the miner's shares by as much as 9 percent at one stage.


The US Labor Department said non-farm payrolls grew by 155,000 jobs last month, slightly below November's level. Gains were distributed broadly throughout the economy, from manufacturing and construction to healthcare.


New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent, or 9.8 points to 4,084.8 to close at a 5-year high.

Center>Copyright Reuters, 2013

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