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Australia shares down at 3-week low, NZ edge lower on weak Wall Street

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell to a three-week low on Wednesday, as financials and pharma stocks followed their US peers after Wall Street was hit by President-elect Donald Trump's remarks on the US dollar and drug pricing.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.6 per cent, or 36.32 points, lower at 5,663.1 by 0030 GMT. The benchmark has risen in line with US indexes such as S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average since Mr Trump's victory in November.

"We had fairly negative lead from oversees markets and that combined with lower commodity prices has generated selling pressure in Aussie markets," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist with CMC Markets.

Mr Trump said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the strength of the US dollar was hurting the competitiveness of US companies.

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The President-elect's remarks pushed the greenback to four-week low and sent bond yields down as investors moved away from riskier assets.

ASX financials index, which had gained more than 15 per cent since the US election, attracted some selling for the second straight session, ahead of Trump's inauguration on Friday.

Financials underperformed other sectors, with "Big Four" banks driving the losses.

Westpac and ANZ shares flirted with one-month lows.

Healthcare stocks also declined. Mr Trump told the Washington Post that he would target companies over drug pricing and would replace Obamacare with a plan that would envisage "insurance for everybody".

US-exposed ResMed Inc dropped 3.6 per cent to a one-month low, while Mayne Pharma and CSL Ltd declined 3 per cent and one per cent, respectively.

Iron miners including heavyweights BHP Billiton and Fortescue Metals Groups also lost ground, as Dalian iron ore pulled back from three-year highs and copper eased on Tuesday.

At the other end of the spectrum, gold and energy stocks rose as a weaker US dollar helped gold and oil prices.

SX gold index gained 1.6 per cent to a two-month high, with Newcrest Mining rising 1.2 per cent, while Woodside Petroleum hit over one-year highs in morning trade.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent or 21.98 points to 7,040.98.

Materials and consumer discretionary stocks led the losses, with Fletcher Building falling 1.7 per cent and web advertiser Trade Me Group dropping 2 per cent to a near one-month low.

REUTERS

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