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Australia shares end lower in cautious trade; NZ reverses losses

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Thursday as a flood of economic data from home and abroad made investors wary of riskier assets, and as traders awaited US job data on Friday for possible clues on the chances of an interest rate hike in coming months.

The S&P/ASX 200 index finished down 0.3 per cent, or 17.43 points, at 5,415.6. The benchmark closed at its lowest in more than six weeks on Wednesday.

Basic materials and energy stocks lost the most. Nickel miner Western Areas Ltd was the biggest loser on the index, tumbling 5.3 per cent.

Coal miner Whitehaven Coal Ltd and oil producers Origin Energy Ltd and Santos Ltd also were among the biggest decliners.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rebounded from earlier losses to gain 0.3 per cent, or 24.36 points, to finish at 7,423.19.

Industrials, healthcare and financials were the major drivers, with medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Corp posting the biggest gain on the main index.

Auckland International Airport and Westpac Banking Corp gained 2 per cent and one per cent, respectively.

REUTERS