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Australia shares start softer, hold near 14-mth highs

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.1 percent in early trade on Monday, with mining stocks losing ground while banks gained, and traders were looking for new momentum drivers as the market consolidated last week's rise to 14-month highs.

The slightly softer tone was in line with Friday's mixed close on Wall Street where a surprise drop in the U.S. unemployment rate was overshadowed by investor concern about the coming earnings season.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index

was down 2.2 points to 4,492.2 by 0037 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.9 percent on Friday to its highest close since August 2011.

"I think it's a consequence of the fact that we've had quite a large run-up now," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

"I think we've just arrived at one of the sorts of levels where the market needs to see a bit more evidence of a medium- term outlook before it takes prices much beyond current levels."

Among the major miners BHP Billiton

fell 0.3 percent while rival Rio Tinto lost 0.2 percent. Newcrest Mining tumbled 2.8 percent.

Banks were mostly strong, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp

leading the gains, rising 0.6 percent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the trend, slipping 0.1 percent.

Defensive stocks also rose, with blood products maker CSL

jumping 1.2 percent and food retailer Woolworths

up 0.2 percent

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index

rose 0.1 percent, or 4.3 points, to 3,909.2. STOCKS ON THE MOVE * QR National

, Australia's top coal-freight company, jumped 4.8 percent to $3.64. Australia's Queensland state government said it was selling $1.5 billion worth of shares in QR National, with the company planning to buy back two-thirds of those shares.

(0035 GMT) * Seven West Media

, owner of Australia's top-rated free-to-air television networks, surged 5.3 percent to A$1.29 on Monday on speculation of a buyout by its largest shareholder.

(0036 GMT) * Aquila Resources

fell 0.4 percent to A$2.67. The company said it is looking at ways to cut the cost of developing its long-delayed iron ore mine, rail and port facility in Western Australia after estimated spending on the project swelled by almost a quarter to A$7.4 billion.

(0036 GMT)

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by John Mair)

((thuy.ong@thomsonreuters.com)(+61 2 9373 1236)(Reuters Messaging: thuy.ong@thomsonreuters.com))

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