* Gold stocks benefit from surge in bullion prices
* Ex-PM calls for inquiry into Murdoch media dominance
* White House seeks stripped-down COVID-19 relief bill
Oct 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares struggled for direction
on Monday as investors stayed away from making big bets ahead of
corporate earnings and production results while awaiting further
developments on U.S. stimulus talks.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.03% to 6,100.2 by
23:45 GMT, after posting its best week in six months last week.
A slew of Australian companies, including global miners BHP
Group and Rio Tinto, are scheduled to report
their quarterly production figures later this week, while the
'big four' banks will provide the first peek into how lenders
fared in the July-September quarter later this month.
The Australian parliament on Friday approved A$17.8 billion
($12.87 billion) in personal tax cuts, quickly pushing through
measures announced earlier in the week as part of the federal
budget to support the coronavirus-ravaged economy.
On Sunday, the White House called on Congress to pass a
stripped-down coronavirus relief bill, promising further
negotiations on a comprehensive bill in the future.
Among sectors, gold stocks surged more than 2% as
bullion prices benefited from bets for fresh U.S. stimulus.
Newcrest Mining, the country's top listed gold
producer, rose 2.1%, while smaller peer Northern Star Resources
Energy stocks declined, dragged by lower oil prices
after an oil worker strike in Norway ended.
Australia-listed shares of News Corp were among the
biggest losers on the benchmark index, after former Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd called for a government inquiry into the
tight ownership of Australian media by the company.
Bravura Solutions was the top gainer on the
benchmark as the insurance-related software provider acquired a
UK-based software company for A$41.5 million.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index rose 0.3% to 12,318.7, helped by gains in utility
and healthcare stocks.
($1 = 1.3833 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Soumyajit Saha in Bengaluru; Editing by