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Australian shares flitted in and out of positive territory to edge down on Tuesday, as losses in the financial sector offset early gains among heavyweight mining stocks after copper prices rose on strong export growth data from top consumer China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed early gains and was down 0.2% at 7,438.40, as of 0106 GMT.

Australian banks dropped 1%, led by the country's second-biggest lender National Australia Bank losing up to 3% despite a 76.8% jump in its annual profit. QBE Insurance Group Ltd slipped 1.76%.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group lost between 0.9% and 1.5%.

Energy index slipped more than half a percent, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd down as much as 0.9% and 1.3%, respectively.

Newcrest Mining, Australia's biggest-listed gold producer, declined more than 5% to mark its worst intraday drop since November last year, after the company floated plans to buy Canadian miner Pretium Resources in a $2.80 billion deal.

Among gainers, the mining sector rose 1.47%, led by Chalice Mining Ltd advancing 9.6%, followed by Piedmont Lithium Inc gaining 4.76%.

Global miners BHP Group, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group advanced between 1.5% and 2.5%.

Prices of copper, often used as a gauge of global economic health, advanced more than 1% on Monday as strong export growth in China boosted demand for the metal used in the power and construction industries.

Healthcare stocks also kept the benchmark afloat. Biotech firm CSL Ltd added more than 1% and ASX-listed shares of Resmed Inc gained nearly 2%.

Gold stocks climbed 0.7%, after losing more than a percent earlier in the day, as bullion prices scaled a two-month high, bolstered by a retreat in the US dollar and persistent inflation concerns.

Technology stocks rose 1.5%, tracking the gains on Wall Street overnight, led by Tyro Payments Ltd, up 2.83%, followed by Megaport Ltd gaining 2.77%.

All three major Wall street indexes ended higher as investors welcomed the passage of a US infrastructure spending bill.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 0.1% lower to 13,028.72.

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