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Aussie shares weaken on Trump's tariff plans; NZ down

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended lower on Friday as US President Donald Trump's plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports hit commodity prices and sparked fears of a trade war.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell for a third consecutive session, losing 0.7 per cent, or 44.4 points to end at 5,928.9. The benchmark closed 1.4 per cent lower this week, having gained in the previous two weeks.

The world's biggest miner BHP Billiton closed 1.6 per cent lower at a near three week low. BHP's American Depository Receipts closed down 1.7 per cent on Thursday.

Steel futures dropped one per cent at 3,997 yuan (S$836.7) a tonne by 0255 GMT, while iron ore on the Dalian Commodities exchange fell 1.2 per cent.

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Rio Tinto fell 1.3 per cent to a three week low, while shares of broader metals and mining stocks ended one per cent lower.

Mr Trump's decision has prompted major trade partners like Canada to warn of retaliation, in what could potentially be a blow to the global economy.

Expecations that that the US Federal Reserve will raise interest rates up to four times this year kept other sectors subdued. The benchmark Aussie financials index fell 0.5 per cent, in line with its US peer.

Three of the 'Big four' banks were lower, losing between 0.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent, while Westpac Banking ended flat.

Meanwhile, gold stocks defied the trend, rising 1.1 per cent, with Newcrest Mining leading the way as gold prices edged away from two-month lows.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.7 per cent or 54.29 points to close the session at 8,288.42, and were marginally down for the week.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation led the losses after falling 3.1 per cent, while Auckland International Airport dropped 1.7 per cent.

REUTERS