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Australia: Shares close down as falling commodities weigh on index

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A sign at the stock exchange shows stocks which fell at the close of trade in Sydney on Sept 29, 2015.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell sharply on Friday, thanks to plunging commodity prices as oil, gold and copper hit multi-year lows amid expectations the United States will hike interest rates next month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 74.4 points or 1.5 per cent to 5,051.3 at the close of trade. The benchmark lost 3.1 per cent for the week, and is down 7 per cent this year.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 34.9 points or 0.6 per cent to finish the session at 5,989.0, down 1.3 per cent for the week.

REUTERS