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Australia: Shares pressured by materials, CBA shines after results; NZ lower

[BENGALURU] Australian shares eased on Wednesday, hurt by basic materials and energy firms though strong quarterly earnings from Commonwealth Bank of Australia drove its stock up and helped limit broad losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent, or 10.24 points, to 6,004.1 by 0010 GMT. The benchmark had added 1 percent on Tuesday, after crossing the critical 6,000-point threshold to scale a near 10-year peak.

The declines on the benchmark were broad-based with nine out of 10 sectors in the red.

Basic material stocks were the biggest drag as nickel, copper and aluminium prices fell sharply on Tuesday.

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"The main negative for the market is the sharp drop in base/industrials metal prices," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The metals and mining index dropped as much as 1.4 per cent, with global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd falling 1.4 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively.

Energy stocks languished as a rally in oil prices lost steam after tension flared between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the Saudi crown prince tightened his grip on power.

Spooner said some short term profit-taking was evident in the energy sector.

The energy index was down as much as 0.9 per cent, with Beach Energy, the biggest loser on the index, declining about 3 per cent.

Financials stocks provided some support to the benchmark index, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia gaining as much as 2 per cent, its highest in nearly three months.

Australia's biggest bank by market value said its first-quarter unaudited cash earnings grew 10.4 per cent as a re-pricing of its mortgage book helped margins in its home lending division and impairment charges fell.

"On the positive side, the market is being assisted by the fact that we saw quite a solid quarterly profit report from CBA this morning," said Mr Spooner.

Among the other "big-four" banks, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group rose 0.6 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp gained 0.4 per cent.

In other stocks, Ardent Leisure Group slid 4.3 per cent to its biggest intraday percentage fall in over 2 months after it said its Chief Executive Simon Kelly had resigned after four months in the role.

Telstra Corp's shares fell over half a percent after Australia's competition watchdog said the telecom company offered refunds to about 42,000 customers.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8 per cent, or 61.95 points to 7,987.72, dragged down by consumer and technology stocks.

Dairy company a2 Milk Company Ltd fell for a fourth straight session, losing as much as 10.8 per cent after global dairy prices slumped to a seven-month low.

REUTERS

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