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Australia: Shares ease on US decline, NZ market cools off

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares edged lower on Friday, mirroring softness across much of Asia after disappointing earnings from the likes of Microsoft and Google parent-company Alphabet soured sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down about 0.2 per cent, or 7.9 points, at 5,264.8 by midday, having earlier fallen as much as 0.9 per cent. The benchmark, which rose the past three days, was still up more than 2 per cent for the week.

Investors took profits on many mining firms that rallied hard recently on the back of higher iron ore prices.

South32 and Fortescue Metals lost between 2 per cent to 4 per cent, recoiling from multi-month peaks.

The major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto eased, while the big banks were mostly firmer though Commonwealth Bank was flat.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed 0.5 per cent, or 33.8 points, to 6,872.4, taking a breather after reaching record peaks in the past seven sessions. It was up 0.4 per cent on the week.

Forsyth Barr Investment Advisor Dave Schaper said trading was likely to remain subdued for the rest of the session.

The biggest gainers included Contact Energy and Kathmandu, both up 1.2 per cent.

In the other direction, Air New Zealand shed 2.8 per cent.

Australian and New Zealand stock markets will be shut on Monday for a holiday.

REUTERS