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Australia shares falter as CBA falls nearly 4%, NZ steady

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Australian shares posted modest losses on Wednesday after poor results from Insurance Australia Group and Healthscope Ltd dragged down the healthcare and financial sectors, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped on the threat of a new lawsuit.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended in negative territory on Friday as bank stocks stumbled after the country's biggest mortgage lender was accused of money laundering by the government.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 14.52 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,720.6 at the close of trade. It still finished the week 0.3 per cent higher, after two straight weeks in the red.

The benchmark edged 0.2 per cent lower on Thursday.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell over 4 per cent before finishing down 3.9 per cent, marking its biggest intraday fall in over a year, after financial intelligence agency Austrac initiated civil penalty proceedings, accusing the bank of 53,700 breaches, in the biggest case of the kind against a major bank.

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Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking followed the downward trend, ending 0.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent lower, while National Australia Bank crossed over to the positive territory to end 0.2 per cent higher.

Crown Resorts recorded its biggest one-day fall in five weeks as the casino giant reported a 16 per cent drop in annual net profit.

Depite the market's modest losses, the Reserve Bank of Australia forecast underscored that the nation's economy was in reasonably good health. The RBA expects the economy will grow "above potential" at around 3 per cent over the next few years.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 7.63 points, or 0.1 per cent, to finish the session at 7,746.12. The index rose 1.4 per cent this week.

The bourse was steady as gains in consumer discretionary stocks curtailed losses from other sectors. A2 Milk ended 3.6 per cent higher, while retirement village operator Summerset Holdings led decliners.

REUTERS

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