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Australia: Shares at 1-mth lows as banks slide


[SYDNEY] Australian shares slipped to one-month lows on Tuesday as investors fretted about weakness in commodity prices and a possible interest rate hike in December by the US Federal Reserve.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1 per cent or 52.39 points to 5,5067.10 by 0149 GMT.

The market has shed nearly 6 per cent since late October with banking stocks leading the losses.

Australia's four major lenders - Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB), Australia and New Zealand Banking Corp and Westpac Banking Group - posted their sixth straight year of record profits, but are preparing for their slowest earnings growth since the global financial crisis.

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CBA skidded around 2 per cent, while Westpac and NAB fell 1.5 per cent. ANZ dipped 0.4 per cent.

Property stocks also came under pressure with Westfield and Mirvac Group down more than 2 per cent each. Scentre Group and Stockland lost between 1.5 per cent and 2.0 per cent.

Mining giant BHP Billiton touched its lowest in six years, with a mining disaster in Brazil further undermining sentiment already shaken by sliding iron ore prices and concerns about Chinese demand.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.5 per cent or 31.84 points to 6,016.05, but stayed near a record-high touched on Monday.

Tuesday's drop marked its biggest daily percentage fall since Sept 29.

Unlike their Australian cousin, New Zealand shares have rallied over 8 per cent so far this year and are on track to deliver their fourth straight year of positive returns.

Supply chain logistics company Mainfreight Ltd, down about 6 per cent, was among the top losers on the index after its half-year net profit fell 1.5 per cent.

Z Energy was off nearly two per cent after the anti-trust regulator said a decision on the petrol retailer's acquisition of Chevron New Zealand could get delayed due to the complexity of the merger.

a2 Milk Company was the most-traded share on the index, up 1.3 per cent.