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Australia: Miners lead shares lower in profit-taking spree

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares sank more than 1.5 per cent on Wednesday with resources among the hardest hit, as fears of further declines in metals prices and a court case dragged on mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd, and in turn on the index.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 82.74 points to 5271.10 at the close of trade. The benchmark lost 1.55 per cent as investors took profits on strong gains in the previous session after Australia's central bank cut its cash rate to a record low.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed 0.27 per cent or 18.51 points to finish the session at 6824.50.

Shares in BHP fell more than 9 per cent - its biggest one-day fall since 2009 - as federal prosecutors in Brazil filed a 155 billion-real (US$43.56 billion) civil lawsuit on Tuesday against iron miner Samarco and its owners, Vale SA and BHP Billiton, for a tailings dam collapse in November that killed 19 people and polluted a major river.

REUTERS