March 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares recouped early losses on Tuesday as gains in financials and healthcare stocks offset a heavy selloff in materials and as investors awaited a central bank policy decision.
The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to keep its main interest rate unchanged later in the day (0330 GMT) after its chief said policy may not change all year.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 0.3 percent, or 19.09 points, to 5,764.80 as of 0100 GMT.
In a sudden turnaround, financials, the biggest index constituent reversed course and pared early losses, with the ‘Big Four’ banks trading in positive territory.
Shares of Westpac Banking Group rose 0.7 percent, while National Australia Bank gained 0.6 percent.
Defensive stocks such as healthcare, consumer staples and utilities also supported the index.
Biotherapeutics company CSL Limited and hearing implants maker Cochlear Ltd rose 1.8 percent each.
Meanwhile, shares of Dreamworld owner Ardent Leisure Group gained 3.1 percent, after the company’s theme parks division reported higher revenue in February compared to the previous two months.
Iron-ore miners fell heavily, tracking weaker iron ore futures in China, which fell more than 2 percent on Monday after inventories at Chinese ports surged to the highest in at least 13 years.
Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto Ltd dropped more than 1 percent
A third straight day of losses for gold prices on Monday pressured gold stocks, with the benchmark index slipping as much as 2.8 percent to its lowest in two months.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining dropped to a one-month low, while its peers Northern Star Resources Ltd and Evolution Mining Ltd lost 3.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.13 percent or 9.58 points to 7169.16 by 0018 GMT. Industrials and utility stocks were the worst performers on the index.
Shares of Auckland International Airport Ltd shed 1.2 percent after the company announced some changes to its airport executive team.
Reporting by Anusha Ravindranath in Bengaluru; Editing by Kim Coghill