Australian shares flat as investors focus on RBA; Newcrest soars on buyout offer

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Feb 6 (Reuters) -Australian shares were largely flat on Monday, with gains in mining and energy stocks keeping the benchmark index afloat ahead of a central bank policy decision, while top gold miner Newcrest Mining surged on a $16.9 billion buyout offer.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO was up 0.05% at 7,561.90, as of 2349 GMT. The benchmark ended 0.6% higher on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is widely expected to deliver a fourth straight quarter-point interest rate hike on Tuesday and will likely follow up with a similar sized increase in March as it fights an unexpected revival in inflation, a Reuters poll showed.

Data on Friday showed U.S. job growth accelerated sharply last month, while the unemployment rate was at its lowest in over half a century, pointing to a stubbornly tight labour market and a potential headache for Federal Reserve officials in their fight against inflation.

Mining stocks .AXMM jumped 1.3% and kept the benchmark afloat, with BHP Group BHP.AX, Rio Tinto RIO.AX, and Fortescue Metals Group FMG.AX adding between 0.9% and 1.4%.

Meanwhile, OZ Minerals' OZL.AX A$9.6 billion ($6.61 billion) buyout by BHP received approval from the Brazilian competition regulator, and is now subject to shareholder vote expected in early April.

Separately, Beach Energy BPT.AX reached a deal with Italy's Webuild SpA WBD.MI to complete delivery of the A$768 million ($531.53 million) Waitsia Stage 2 gas project.

Gold stocks .AXGD jumped as much as 4.5%, with Newcrest Mining NCM.AX rising up to 14.4% after the company received a $16.9 billion initial takeover offer from U.S.-based Newmont Corp NEM.N.

Tech stocks .AXIJ fell 0.3% after the Nasdaq .IXIC closed lower on Friday. ASX-listed shares of Block Inc SQ2.AX fell 0.6%, while Xero XRO.AX slipped 0.4%. .N

Financials .AXFJ fell 0.1%, with all the "big four" banks trading in negative territory.

Markets in New Zealand were closed for a public holiday.

($1 = 1.4449 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Nausheen Thusoo in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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