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Australia, NZ: Australia shares down, NZ steady as focus turns to US data

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares dipped on Friday with modest losses in the major miners and banks a drag on the market, while New Zealand shares dithered under a record high set earlier in the week.

The subdued performance came after Wall Street ended mixed while most commodity prices fell. Caution ahead of US retail sales data due later also kept most buyers at bay.

"This week's most important US data release is April retail sales," analysts at Westpac said, adding an encouraging outcome would reinforce the Federal Reserve's view that the domestic economy is growing at a moderate pace.

Comments from a few Fed officials overnight pointed to growing pressure within the US central bank to raise rates in coming months.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.6 per cent, or 29.8 points, to 5,329.5 by 0242 GMT. The benchmark is still up 0.7 per cent this week, having peaked at a nine-month high of 5,425.2 on Wednesday.

Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto each shed over 2 per cent. All the big four banks were down more than one per cent.

In contrast, APN News & Media jumped 12 per cent after a successful capital raising. The media firm is also in talks to spin off its New Zealand business and merge it with the local business of Australia's Fairfax Media.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was a touch firmer at 6.928.3, holding under a record high of 6,961.8 set on Wednesday. On the week, the benchmark was up 0.4 per cent.

Xero recovered after falling on its full year result and was trading up 7.8 per cent. Investors also remain upbeat about Orion Health Group, up 3.3 per cent.

In the other direction, Mighty River was down 0.3 per cent.

REUTERS