Australian shares flat as miners offset gains in banks

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Jan 25 (Reuters) -Australian shares struggled for direction on Wednesday as mining and healthcare stocks countered gains in banks, while investors awaited data that is likely to show inflation peaked in the fourth quarter.

The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO was flat at 7,491.90, as of 2133 GMT, after five straight sessions of gains. S&P E-minis futures EScv1 were down 0.4%, while Nikkei futures NKc1 fell 0.3%.

Markets are leaning towards a quarter-point hike from the Reserve Bank of Australia next month, but talks of a pause are on the rise following softer jobs data last week. Australia will release its consumer price index data later in the day.

Financials .AXFJ added 0.3% to hit a more than eight-month high, with the "big four" banks up between 0.3% and 0.6%.

Energy stocks .AXEJ rose 0.3%, extending gains to a fourth session. Woodside Energy WDS.AX was trading 0.4% higher after posting upbeat fourth-quarter results, while Santos STO.AX was flat. O/R

Newcrest Mining NCM.AX, the country's largest gold miner, climbed 1.9%, despite reporting weak quarterly gold production.

On the downside, miners .AXMM declined 0.5%, with BHP Group BHP.AX and Rio Tinto RIO.AX falling 0.3% and 0.8%, respectively.

Healthcare stocks .AXHJ dropped 0.6%, with biopharmaceutical firm CSL Ltd CSL.AX retreating as much as 1.4% in early trade.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 rose 0.3% to 11,967.94.

The country's consumer inflation outpaced expectations in the fourth quarter and remained at historically high levels as prices rose for everything from house building to food and flights.

Reporting by Upasana Singh; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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