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Australia: Shares slip on profit taking ahead of US payrolls


[SYDNEY] Australian shares slipped 0.5 per cent on Friday after two days of gains as investors took profits ahead of the release, later in the global day, of US non-farm payrolls data, which might provide some clue to when US interest rates will rise.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 25.6 points to 5,086.5 by 02.17 GMT. The benchmark rose 1.8 per cent on Thursday and is on track for its first weekly gain in two weeks.

"It's been a hectic and an exhausting week for investors and traders. A bit of a breather not only makes sense in the context of the week but also in view of the fact that we've got a potentially market-changing read on US nonfarm payrolls coming out tonight, Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist, CMC Markets.

The index posted its biggest quarterly loss in four years for the three months to September. The market's recent rout has forced most strategists to slash their year-end expectations, but a new Reuters poll shows the index is still seen ending 2015 roughly 2 per cent above Thursday's close.

Banks weighed on the index with Westpac and ANZ down over 1 per cent each, Commonwealth Bank fell 0.7 per cent and NAB was off 0.2 per cent.

Energy stocks were mixed with Woodside Petroleum down 0.4 per cent while Santos rose 0.6 per cent.

Miners seesawed between black and red with miner Fortescue Group rising 1.5 per cent while Rio Tinto fell 1.7 per cent.

Australia's Bega Cheese Ltd rose as much as 1.3 per cent after brokerage Bell Potter raised its target.

China's markets are closed until October 8.

Asian shares slipped in early trade, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan down about 0.3 per cent. Wall Street ended slightly higher.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 10.7 points, to 5,596.167, not far from a one-month trough touched in the last session.

The index was on track for a decline of around 2 per cent this week, with charts pointing to further downside. A sustained break of 5,585.54 would target 5,541.56, the 100 per cent retracement of the September climb.

Petrol retailer Z Energy Ltd finally bounced after a tough week. It was up 1.5 per cent but still down around 9 per cent for the week after New Zealand's state-run pension fund and utilities investor Infratil sold a combined 30 per cent stake in the firm this week.

In contrast, shares in telco Spark slipped 0.7 per cent to languish at around five-week lows.