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Aussie shares eke out gain as materials weigh; NZ rises

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended slightly higher on Friday as gains across a number of sectors outpaced a decline in materials, allowing the benchmark to end the week higher.

Material stocks faced heavy selling pressure after US President Donald Trump pressed ahead on Thursday with import tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent for aluminium, but exempted Canada and Mexico and offered the possibility of excluding other allies.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended up 0.3 per cent, or 20.3 points, at 5,963.2, and gained about 0.6 per cent through a tumultous week.

Finanicals led gains, with the "big-four banks" all ending higher for the day. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the biggest company on the index by market capitalisation, advanced 0.9 per cent.

Financials tracked their US peers higher, as the S&P finance sector index ended 0.3 per cent higher overnight.

However, those gains were largely offset by losses for Australian miners.

BHP Billiton, the largest miner on the index (and the world) by market capitalisation, fell 1.7 per cent, and was by far the biggest drag on the index. The stock ended at its lowest since December 2017.

The benchmark metals and mining index ended 2 per cent lower. Rio Tinto fell about 2.7 per cent to its lowest close since December.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Friday he was hopeful of securing an exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminium after sustained lobby effort by his government.

Gold stocks also fell following gold prices, which extended losses after dollar strengthened against the yen on hopes of easing tensions between the United States and North Korea and ahead of US non-farm payroll data later in the day.

New Zealand shares ended higher, led by telecommunication stocks, while a dip in healthcare stocks checked gains.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 31.1 points to finish the session at 8,390.01. The index gained 1.2 per cent for the week.

Telecommunications provider Spark New Zealand ended 3.5 per cent higher and was the biggest boost to the index, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp ended 1.7 per cent lower.