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Australia, NZ: Shares in holding pattern as Brexit risk looms


[SYDNEY] Australian shares edged up on Friday after three sessions of declines but were still on track to post one of their worst weekly performances this year.

Fears of fresh global market turmoil if Britain votes next Thursday to exit the European Union have seen the local market shed around 3 per cent so far this week - a magnitude not seen since February.

By 0223 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was up a mere 0.3 per cent, or 17.4 points, at 5,163.4. The benchmark was still within reach of a two-month low of 5,141.0 set on Thursday.

Helping prop up the market, the big four local banks all trimmed some of this week's hefty losses. ANZ put on 1.5 per cent, climbing off a six-week low.

The global miners also enjoyed a bit of a lift with BHP Billiton up 0.7 per cent.

Traders said there was little market conviction given the current skittish environment.

"Next Friday promises to be utter madness and as such as we have heard from the BOJ, Federal Reserve and Swiss National Bank overnight assuring participants that they will provide liquidity should it dry up on the day," said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index drifted in and out of negative territory.

It was last a tad higher at 6,889.9, but still poised for a weekly loss of 1.2 per cent - its largest weekly decline since February.

Vital Healthcare rose 0.5 per cent while Auckland Airport rose 0.9 per cent.

New Zealand Refining led losses, falling 1.5 per cent as investors took profits after the refining company rose for two previous sessions.

Accounting software company Xero lost one per cent while retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare fell 1.1 per cent.