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Australia: Shares take breather after hot rally, set for weekly gain


[SYDNEY] Australian shares were little changed on Friday as investors took stock of a strong rally in the previous session, but the market was still on track to post its best weekly performance in over a month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index drifted in and out of negative territory and was last 0.04 per cent higher at 5,953.4. Still, it was up some 2.4 per cent on the week.

The benchmark index jumped 1.9 per cent on Thursday after comments from the Federal Reserve prompted investors to price in a later start and a slower pace for future US interest rate rises. "Some people are catching their breath. People got a little overly excited in the banks and we're seeing a bit of moderation," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index rose 6.5 points or 0.1 per cent to 5,865.9, near a lifetime high of 5,927.1 hit at the start of the week as investors continued to pick up shares in Spark.

Shares in the nation's dominant telecommunications provider rose 0.7 per cent, as a slide to a three-month trough on Wednesday prompted some buying.