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Aussie shares poised for a tame end to a buoyant 2016; NZ slips

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[BENGALURU] Financial shares dragged Australian stocks lower in morning trade on Friday, following leads from US and European bank shares that eased on profit taking.

The market was further dented by material stocks that came under pressure from losses in copper and Chinese steel.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 10.7 points or 0.2 per cent to 5,688.3 by 0133 GMT.

It rose 7.4 per cent this year, rebounding from last year's losses.

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Financial shares underperformed other sectors on Friday, with the "Big Four" banks down more than a per cent each. The overall index gained 5.3 per cent this year.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto also shaved off gains, dragging the materials and metals index after slipping over a per cent each.

Over the year though, BHP Billiton gained 42.8 per cent, while Rio Tinto rose 35.8 per cent.

Materials outperformed in 2016, with the materials index up about 40 per cent, and broader metals index up 53.2 per cent.

Energy shares snapped five sessions of gains on Friday, to fall 0.8 per cent after oil futures backtracked on Thursday.

"In a broader sense, when Donald Trump was elected, the first thing he suggested was that he was going to undo the Trans-Pacific trade deal, which Australia is a part of. That may undermine some agricultural areas. Other than that, I think strength in commodities will be good for the markets overall," says Gary Burton, market analyst at IG, for the year ahead.

Whitehaven Coal fell 3 per cent, leading sector losses.

Gold explorers Newcrest Mining and Perseus Mining rose 4.7 per cent each during the session, after gold prices advanced to their highest in more than two weeks on Thursday.

The gold index jumped 45.3 per cent this year, posting its yearly best performance in 16 years.

Gold producer Resolute Mining was the biggest per cent age gainer on the benchmark this year, up 345.3 per cent, followed by lithium miner Galaxy Resources.

Healthcare stocks were the worst performers this year.

Estia Health hit a record low in 2016, eroding about 63 per cent of its share price.

Sirtex Medical, already the worst performer of 2016, down more than 60 per cent, slid 0.8 per cent on Friday. The company has been underperforming the broader S&P/ASX 200 Health Care (GIC) Index this year, and tumbled 37 per cent on Dec 9 on a poor earnings outlook, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream. New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 11.06 points to 6,881.2.

The index rose 9 per cent in 2016, gaining for a fifth straight year.

Industrials led losses on Friday, with Auckland International Airport losing the most.

Air New Zealand was among the gainers, up 1.2 per cent on the day.

REUTERS

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