July 31, 2018 / 6:40 AM / 5 months ago

Australian shares edge up, rally for 4th month; NZ flat

* Aussie shares gain for 4-months on the trot, NZ snaps 3-month rally

* BHP the biggest boost on hopes for higher shareholder returns

* U.S. tech sell-off filters down to local peers (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Nainan

July 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares wobbled on Tuesday, with investors in BHP doing enough to keep the market in positive territory as a rout in U.S. technology stocks filtered through to peers down under.

The S&P/ASX 200 index stood just 1.8 points higher at 6,280.2 by the close of trade, holding near multi-year highs, supported for a fourth consecutive month of gains.

“It does suggest that there are valuation impacts holding back the overall market and that in a technical sense this is the top of the range for the moment,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, rose 2 percent to close at its highest in nearly four years, to provide the main boost for the index.

“BHP’s getting the credit from selling its shale assets. People are hanging on because they think potentially there will be capital management like a buy-back, or even higher dividends,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a Blue Ocean Equities market portfolio strategist.

Despite the growing likelihood of a strike at BHP’s Escondida mine in Chile, investors still locked in positions after the company promised to return to shareholders proceeds from it’s U.S. shale assets sale to BP Plc.

The energy index climbed over 1 percent, with Woodside Petroleum topping the gains, despite oil prices retreating in Asian trade on oversupply concerns.

Aussie technology stocks were the biggest hindrance to gains, with the sector index down over 2 percent, tracking global tech giants declines in U.S. markets after posting disappointing earnings.

WiseTech Global and Xero Ltd suffered the biggest losses, falling 7.9 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed at 8,922.09 in a lacklustre session. The benchmark edged lower for July, snapping three straight months of gains.

Gains among telecommunication stocks, led by Spark New Zealand were eclipsed by losses from index heavyweights a2 Milk Company and Fletcher Building.

Amid concern over falling global dairy prices and oversupply, a2 Milk fell 1.5 percent, while Fonterra said its total milk production in the region during June rose 11 percent. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan, additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru)

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