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Australia shares end lower as iron ore, copper prices slide; NZ down

Friday, February 24, 2017 - 14:17

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished lower on Friday, as sliding iron ore and copper prices dragged down the materials sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 0.8 per cent, or 45.66 points, at 5,739 by the close of trade. The benchmark was off 0.4 per cent on Thursday.

China's iron ore futures slid nearly 5 per cent and were headed for a weekly loss, coming off a rapid rally underpinned by expectations that strong infrastructure spending would spur steel demand in the world's top consumer.

Copper prices also tumbled as worries about demand in China resurfaced after the country's housing minister suggested moves were afoot to stabilise the property market, while a firm US dollar reinforced negative sentiment.

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The S&P/ASX 200 materials index fell for a third straight session to more than a six-week low.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest miner by market capitalisation, slumped to over a seven-week low, its third successive day in the red.

Global miners Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd dropped 4.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent, respectively.

Financial stocks also took a beating, weighed down by the "Big Four" banks that lost 0.2 to 0.7 per cent.

The worst performer on the main index was business management software maker Myob Group Ltd, diving 6.8 per cent to an eight-month intraday low on a selldown by Bain Capital.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.4 per cent, or 30.94 points lower, to finish the session at 7,058.58.

The index fell to its lowest in three weeks, with industrials, utilities and healthcare stocks leading the losses.

Auckland International Airport Ltd and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp slipped 1.7 per cent, while Mercury NZ Ltd fell 2.6 per cent.

Retail company Warehouse Group Ltd, the biggest loser on the index, fell 2.6 per cent to a three-week intraday low.

REUTERS

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