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Australia shares drop as investors take profit after two-day rally

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell 0.3 per cent on Friday, after a robust two-day rally, led by losses in financials and resources counters as investors booked profits ahead of the holiday season.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 17 points to 5,085.00 by 0145 GMT. The benchmark jumped 1.5 per cent on Thursday and is on track for its best weekly performance since the week ending Nov 20.

The index has had a tough year, already down more than 6 per cent so far and on track for its first negative annual returns since 2011.

However, analysts maintained a bullish long-term view of the index on the back of an improving macro-economic outlook and a weak Aussie dollar. The index is expected to rebound in 2016 to 5,625 points, a Reuters poll found.

On Friday, the "Big Four" banks were all in the red, with Westpac and National Australia Bank falling 0.6 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively. ANZ Banking slipped 1.2 per cent while CBA was off 0.2 per cent.

Among major miners, BHP Billiton lost 2.6 per cent and Rio Tinto skidded 3 percent while Fortescue slumped over 5 per cent.

Consumer discretionary shares such as Domino's Pizza and salmon grower Tassal Group rose 4.9 per cent and 3.2 per cent respectively.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged up 0.11 per cent or 6.950 points to 6,095.280 on Friday and was headed for a weekly gain of 0.4 per cent.

Gains were led by A2 Milk which hit a record high and rose as much 24.3 per cent after the dairy producer raised its forecasts on its 2016 full year earnings.

Rubber product manufacturer Skellerup rose 1.38 per cent, Goodman Property rose 1.3 per cent and infrastructure firm Infratil rose 1.11 per cent.

New Zealand Refining rose 1.11 per cent after signing a an agreement with Vector on upgrading gas production. Vector gained more modestly, rising 0.64 per cent.

Fuel supplier Z Energy led losses, dropping 3.28 per cent after New Zealand's competition regulator further delayed its decision over Z Energy's bid to acquire Chevron New Zealand.

REUTERS