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Australia: Shares retreat led by banks; NZ flat

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell back below 6,000 points on Friday, led mostly by banking stocks after the financial transactions watchdog increased the number of money laundering claims against Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation's largest lender.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.28 or 16.9 points to 5,994.2 by 0049 GMT. The benchmark rose above the 6,000 level on Tuesday and fell 0.2 per cent on Thursday.

The index was on track to end the week slightly lower.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell about 0.6 per cent and was among the biggest drags on the benchmark, pulling it down about 1.8 points.

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The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre added more than 100 new claims against the bank in addition to those included in a civil case that the watchdog filed in August for the bank's alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws.

Other financials were also lower, with Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia falling as much as 7.4 per cent after it cut its net earned premium guidance for 2017.

Real estate stocks were also lower, with property developers Scentre Group and Westfield Corp falling about 1.4 per cent each.

Westfield, which spun off its Australian shopping centre business through its Scentre listing in 2014 while keeping the US and British assets, had clocked a record gain on Wednesday after it received a takeover offer from France's Unibail-Rodamco SE. Scentre shares had also risen following the announcement.

Industrial stocks, however, offered some hope, with toll road developer Transurban Group rising about 4.2 per cent. The stock was among the few major boosts to the benchmark.

Trading in the stock had been halted since Tuesday to allow the company to raise A$1.9 billion (S$1.96 billion) in capital in order to fund the development of a major roadway development project in Melbourne.

Also in the green was casino operator Crown Resorts, which rose more than 5 per cent after it signed several divestment deals, including the sale of its interest in a Las Vegas site for US$300 million to a unit of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares were largely flat, hovering around record levels breached on Thursday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.08 per cent or 6.78 points to 8,316.97.

However, the benchmark was on track to end the week about 1.1 per cent higher.

Gains in consumer staples and utilities were offset by lagging materials and telecom stocks, with index heavyweight a2 Milk rising as much as 3.3 per cent, while the nation's largest construction company shed about 1.7 per cent.

REUTERS

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