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Australia shares falter ahead of US economic data; NZ slips

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[BENGALURU] Financials and energy shares led losers as Australia's benchmark index closed lower on Friday, with investors awaiting US payrolls data for more clues to the strength of the US economy and whether conditions were ripe for raising interest rates.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 56.2 points or 1.02 per cent lower at 5,444 points.

Oil majors Woodside and Oil Search fell 2 per cent and 0.14 per cent respectively, taking a breather from surges made on Thursday, after oil prices jumped on Opec's decision to cut oil production.

Bellamy's Australia was the biggest per centage loser on the index, recording its biggest ever per centage loss. The baby foods maker tanked in a heavy sell-off on Friday, down as much as 44 per cent, after it said that new import rules in China had created a supply glut that was hurting sales.

Dairy companies A2 Milk and Bega Cheese also slumped 10.2 per cent and 6.3 per cent respectively.

Financials snapped their three-day winning streak to fall 0.9 per cent, with all 'Big Four' banks ending the session in red.

Large-cap miner BHP Billiton slipped 2.3 per cent, while Rio Tinto eased 1.12 per cent after copper prices waned on the London Metal Exchange on Thursday.

The benchmark index fell 1.16 per cent on the week, snapping the previous week's gains.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 27.89 points to finish the session at 6,904.8.

Losses were led by consumer staples and material shares.

A2 Milk led consumer staple sector losses, and was the biggest per centage loser on the main index, down 11.6 per cent.

Air New Zealand ended the session 1.4 per cent lower.

The index ended the week marginally higher, gaining for a third week.

REUTERS