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Australia: Shares disappoint for a second year, NZ up 13.6% in 2015

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended the year more than 2 per cent down, disappointing investors for the second year in a row as slumping iron ore and metal prices hit bluechip mining stocks while onerous capital rules hurt the heavyweight banking sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.5 per cent on the last trading day of the year on Thursday to 5,295.9 points, staying near a 2-month high hit in the previous session. The benchmark rose 1 per cent in the previous session.

The index has delivered its first annual fall since 2011, having only added a meagre 1 per cent in 2014, resulting in almost no net change in the benchmark over the past two years.

In contrast to its Australian cousin, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index has made successive record highs and ended the year up a whopping 13.6 per cent, its fourth annual gain.

The New Zealand index rose 0.08 per cent or 4.87 points to finish the session at a record close of 6,324.26.

Analysts maintain a bullish long-term view of the Australian index on the back of the weak Aussie dollar. The benchmark is expected to rebound in 2016 to 5,625 points, a Reuters poll found.

Trading resumes on Monday in Australia. New Zealand stock markets re-open on Tuesday.

REUTERS