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Australia: Shares close down as falling commodities weigh on index

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.