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Australia shares flat as mining gains offset healthcare losses

* Miners on track for best day in 1-1/2 months

* Macquarie Group hits highest in nearly a year

* NZ50 extends losses to a fifth session

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares were little changed in choppy trade on Monday as losses in healthcare and tech stocks countered strong gains in miners driven by buoyant commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index swung between positive and negative territory early in the session before trading flat at 6,797.3 by 0055 GMT. It fell 1.3% on Friday.

Mining stocks rose about 2.8%, their biggest intraday percentage gain since early January, with copper miners leading the charge after prices of the base metal hit a more than nine-year high last week.

BHP Group, the world’s largest listed miner, gained 3.2%, while copper miner OZ Minerals climbed 9.1% to its highest since July 2008.

Energy stocks fell as much as 1.6% before recouping some of the losses. Woodside Petroleum dropped 0.4%.

Shares of Ampol Ltd fell as much as 7.4% to a more than four-month low after the fuel supplier said it expected market conditions to remain challenging in 2021, with travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic likely to continue denting fuel demand.

The heavyweight financial index was slightly down, with all the “Big Four” banks trading in negative territory.

Macquarie Group, however, climbed as much as 4.3% to its highest in nearly a year after the company forecast an improved outlook for fiscal 2021.

Tech stocks shed 0.9%, with sector heavyweight Afterpay falling 0.6%.

Shares of export-reliant healthcare companies came under pressure as the Australian dollar strengthened against the U.S. currency. The sub-index was down 1.5%, with CSL Ltd shedding 1.7%.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5% to 12,484.45 by 0053 GMT, on track for a fifth straight session of losses. Telecom services provider Chorus Ltd was the top loser in the benchmark. (Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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