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Australia: Shares tick lower as gloomy banks undermine gains in materials

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares eased on Friday and logged their steepest weekly fall since November as weakness in bank stocks offset gains in materials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ticked 10.912 points, or 0.2 per cent, lower at 5,727.4 at the close of trade, leading to a 1.9 per cent loss for the week.

Financial stocks were in the red with the "Big Four"slipping 0.6-1.9 per cent.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 2.2 per cent in early trade to its lowest in five months, on its third day of losses.

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The benchmark index of financial stocks, which fell for the past three days, closed down 0.8 per cent. The index hit its lowest in three months.

Australia's top billboard company oOh!media Ltd edged lower on its sixth straight day of losses after its rival APN Outdoor Group Ltd APO.AX dropped plans to buy the company after the antitrust regulator raised concerns.

Defying market gloom, materials stocks crawled up, with the mining benchmark closing 1.2 per cent higher against a backdrop of upbeat Shanghai steel and oil prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.3 per cent or 20.35 points higher to finish the session at 7,392.11. It ended the week at a 0.8 per cent loss, the lowest since December.

REUTERS

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