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Australia: Shares close lower on plunging oil price, but jobs data offsets

[SYDNEY] Australian shares pared most of their heavy early losses on Thursday as investors looked past plunging oil prices and focused on better-than-expected local jobs data.

After falling up to 1.3 per cent in early trading, the S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.53 per cent or 28.00 points at 5231.0, its third consecutive decline.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index dropped 0.39 per cent or 21.51 points to finish the session at 5502.07.