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Australia shares close at 6-week low as banks drag; NZ rises

[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped below the 6,000 level for the first time this year on Monday, with banking stocks accounting for most of the losses.

Shares on the local benchmark took cues from US stock index futures, which dipped slightly on the second day of a US government shutdown.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell for a fifth straight session, settling at 5,991.9, its weakest close since Dec 7. The benchmark shed 0.2 per cent on Friday.

Financial stocks weighed the most on the index, with the"Big Four" banks losing in a range of 0.6 per cent to 1.2 per cent. The financial index saw its worst finish since October 2017.

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National Australia Bank Ltd lost 0.6 per cent and closed at its lowest since December 2016, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 1.2 per cent to a near seven-week low.

Miner South32 Ltd and steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel Ltd pulled the material sector into the red, falling 2.6 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively.

The metals and mining index, which saw a positive start to the session, slid 0.2 per cent to a near three-week trough. The index has finished lower for five consecutive sessions.

Property website Domain Holdings Australia Ltd posted the sharpest per centage drop on the index, plunging 17.2 per cent to a record low after its chief executive quit two months after the Fairfax Media spinoff listed on the Australian exchange.

Meanwhile, retail giant Woolworths Ltd and winery Treasury Wine Estates logged gains of 1.1 per cent and 2.7 per cent, respectively.

CSL Ltd also contributed to the gains on the index, rising 1 per cent to its best level since December 1.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 per cent or 45.4 points to 8,335.36, its best close in nearly two weeks.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd was the top boost to the index, climbing 3.5 per cent to a record close in its sixth straight session in the black.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained 3.9 per cent, marking its sharpest intraday percentage gain in eight weeks.

REUTERS

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