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Australia shares pause near recent peak, NZ reaches fresh record

[SYDNEY] Australia's benchmark share index paused near a one-year high on Friday, though a rally in the natural resources sector offset some losses in energy and financials, while New Zealand stocks touched another all-time high.

Both indices looked poised for another week of solid gains.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.3 per cent or 17.2 points to 5,495.2 by 0246 GMT, but was still close to a near one-year peak of 5,531.9 reached on Thursday.

The index has added 1.3 per cent so far this week, bringing the month's gains to 5 per cent. If sustained, July will have the biggest monthly increase since March.

Likewise, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index is up nearly 5 per cent in July, as both indices have recovered from a slump after the June 23 Brexit vote.

Friday's biggest gainers in Australia were miners, boosted by a 1.8 per cent rally in prices of iron ore, the nation's largest export earner.

Also helping was a jump in the prices of metals like nickel and zinc, which on Thursday touched their highest levels in more than a year.

BHP Billiton Ltd leapt 1.3 per cent and its spin-off, South32 Ltd edged up 0.4 per cent.

Rio Tinto rose nearly one per cent, while Newcrest Mining was up 3.1 per cent following a gold rally in the last session.

Energy stocks, however, fell. Oil Search was off 1.7 per cent after it lost out to ExxonMobil Corp for making acquisition in Papua New Guinea.

Woodside Petroleum and Santos Energy dropped around 1.3 per cent each following recent falls in oil prices.

Banks also came under pressure with National Australia Bank leading losses with a one per cent drop following a management restructuring.

ANZ Bank was not far behind with a loss of 1.1 per cent, while Westpac Bank edged down 0.6 per cent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia was unchanged.

Medical technology company Rhinomed up 5.6 per cent after it launched a new product in the US market. Personal hygiene products maker Asaleo Care plunged 33 per cent to an all-time low after it cut profit guidance for 2016.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reached another all-time high, at 7,241.19, and at 0320 GMT was up 0.4 per cent at 7,240.47 as the central bank hinted at more rate cuts to come.

The biggest gainers were Steel & Tube, up 3.8 per cent and Vital Healthcare, up 2.9 per cent.

Comvita shed 3.5 per cent.