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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Friday and were on track to post a second week of losses as investors reacted with disappointment to the European Central Bank's latest stimulus efforts, seen by many as a bare-minimum easing package.
Latest comments from Federal Reserve officials also suggested that a December US interest rate hike is almost a done deal, barring any unexpected shocks from payrolls due later in the day.
This combination has conspired to send global markets into a tailspin, said Chris Conway, head of research at Australian Stock Report. "Whilst today will be ugly, investors should not panic. This process of readjustment from global central banks has been and will continue to be an ongoing and sometimes violent process." The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 87.82 points, or 1.68 per cent, to 5,139.90 by 0144 GMT. It was down 1.2 per cent on the week, extending last week's 1.0 per cent slide.
Losses were broad and included the index heavyweights such as the big four banks and major miners. Leading the lenders was ANZ Bank, which slid 2.8 per cent.
Among the miners, Rio Tinto dropped 2.5 per cent to its lowest in nearly seven years. BHP Billiton fell 1.5 per cent and hit a 10-year low of A$17.81.
For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.8 per cent, or 46.39 points, to 6,079.20, pulling further away from Wednesday's record high of 6,162.97.
The benchmark was headed for a weekly loss of 0.36 per cent, after two weeks of gains.
Trade Me fell 1.8 per cent as investors took profits ahead of the weekend after the online auction company rose to a one-year high the previous session.
Meridian Energy led losses, falling 2.9 per cent while Genesis Energy lost 1.9 per cent.
Shares in Fonterra's fund, which provides investor exposure to the farmer-owned dairy exporter, rose 0.7 per cent. A global dairy auction held early on Wednesday morning had shown that milk prices were stabilising.