Australia stocks end flat as Rio Tinto, CBA offset early gains



(Updates to close)

* Gold stocks boost ASX 200, banks drag

* Rio Tinto down 7% on ex-dividend

* CBA fell ~3% on Citi downgrade

By Indranil Sarkar

Aug 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended little changed on Thursday as losses in Commonwealth Bank and Rio Tinto tempered gains driven by robust blue-chip earnings and gold miners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO settled 0.05% higher at 7,588.2, as the benchmark extends a strong rally since April on the back of a post-pandemic economic recovery.

Rio Tinto shares RIO.AX , the biggest drag on the index, slid as much a 7% as they traded ex-dividend.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CBA.AX dropped as much as 2.4%, its biggest intraday loss since June 21, a day after it reported annual results and a large share buyback. Analysts had flagged concerns around revenue growth going forward.

Broader financials .AXFJ fell 0.3%, although National Australia Bank Ltd NAB.AX added as much as 1.2% thanks to a jump in its third-quarter cash profit.

Gold stocks .AXGD rose 0.2%, snapping five sessions of losses, after tame U.S. consumer price data eased fears that the Federal Reserve would taper stimulus sooner than expected.

Index heavyweight Newcrest Mining Ltd NCM.AX and Northern Star Resources NST.AX led gains, each climbing 0.3%.

Technology stocks .AXIJ were the biggest losers, dropping 1.1%, dragged by a 1.4% dip in buy now, pay later firm Afterpay APT.AX .

In other stocks, the nation's biggest telecom firm Telstra TLS.AX hit a four-year high after announcing a A$1.35 billion ($994.68 million) share buyback.

Australian wealth manager AMP Ltd AMP.AX posted its best day in two months, rising as much as 2.8%, after annual underlying profit surged 57%.

"At the end of the day, our markets were in results season, so (the move) was very much determined by individual companies," said Henry Jennings, a senior analyst at the Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 fell 0.09% to 12,737.

($1 = 1.3572 Australian dollars)
Reporting by Indranil Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.

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