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Aussie shares extend losses as banks weigh; NZ hits 5-week closing low

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares extended losses to a second session on Thursday, led by declines in financials, after a report that China may dial down purchases of US government debt rattled Wall Street.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5 per cent, or 29.1 points, to 6,067.60. The benchmark lost 0.6 per cent in the previous session.

The three major indexes on Wall Street snapped a six-session rally on Wednesday as investors grew jittery after Bloomberg reported that China, the world's biggest foreign holder of US Treasuries, could slow or halt US government bond purchases.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group finished 0.2 per cent weaker at its lowest close in a week, while Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.5 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively.

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Materials stocks reversed early gains in the session to end lower, with heavyweight BHP Billiton Ltd slipping 0.4 per cent.

Australia's Port Hedland iron ore terminal, used by the nation's top miners, has begun clearing all vessels in its harbour as a tropical storm intensifies off the western Australian coast.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index registered broad losses and dropped 1.4 per cent to finish at 8,250.44, its lowest close since Dec 8.

Dairy firm A2 Milk Company shed 4.4 per cent to touch a near two-month closing low, while Auckland International Airport dropped 2.3 per cent, hitting its lowest close in six weeks.

REUTERS