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Australia, New Zealand: Shares slip on profit taking, risk aversion

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[WELLINGTON] Australian shares edged down on Friday, tracking Wall Street lower amidst renewed worries about global growth and profit-taking before the earnings season.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 20.479 points to 4,943.60 by 0148 GMT. The benchmark lost 0.41 per cent on Friday and was headed for a weekly drop of 1.6 per cent , its third week of losses.

"We have been expecting for a number of weeks that the risk of the US market moving into profit taking mode will drag the Aussie market down in the first half of April," said Mathan Somasundaram, quantative strategy analyst at Baillieu Holst.

Mr Somasundaram said the US earnings reporting season will coincide with upcoming school holidays in Australia, when local fund managers would typically trim exposure to more volatile stocks.

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Financial companies led losses with Bank Of Queensland falling as much as 6.8 per cent as brokers cut targets.

ANZ lost 1.72 per cent and Westpac was down 1.25 per cent.

Oz Minerals lost 4.66 per cent as the company announced a cost saving program.

Iluka Resources fell 6.32 per cent after saying on Thursday that its zircon reference price would be reduced by 10 per cent in the second quarter.

Evolution Mining led gains, rising as much as 8.9 per cent as the company reported record gold output.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index also fell, losing 0.55 per cent or 36.960 points to 6,718.27.

However, the index was poised to close up 0.32 per cent for the week, its eighth weekly gain in a row as New Zealand's record low interest rates prompted investors to seek higher returns in stocks.

Casino operator Sky City lost 3.57 per cent after its CEO announced on Thursday that he was resigning.

Accounting software company Xero fell 1.98 per cent and Genesis Energy lost 1.12 per cent.

Kiwi Property fell 1.37 per cent after the property company announced it was acquiring a 50 per cent interest in a shopping centre, which would be funded through a new bank loan.

Shares in Fonterra's fund, which provides investor exposure to the farmer-owned dairy exporter, rose 0.35 per cent as the dairy co-operative announced it was opening a new distribution centre at Auckland Airport for its New Zealand consumer business.

REUTERS

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