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Australia: Shares burdened by banks and miners, NZ soft

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares slipped for a third straight session on Thursday, weighed down by persistent weakness in heavyweight banks and mining stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.25 per cent, or 12.2 points, to 4,862.80 by 0240 GMT. The benchmark had dropped 2.1 per cent on Wednesday.

BHP Billiton fell 1.1 per cent, extending its slump since Wednesday to almost 10 per cent. After reporting a huge loss and slashing its dividend, news came Wednesday that some investors were suing the mining giant in US courts.

Commonwealth Bank extended its recent dismal run with a drop of 1 per cent to the lowest since September.

The shares are nearing major chart support in the A$70/70.15 region and a break would take it to ground not visited since late 2013.

Another big loser was casino group Crown Resorts, which fell 5 per cent after reporting a sharp drop in profits as Beijing's corruption crackdown hurt turnover at its operation in Macau.

One gainer was job website Seek which jumped 7.7 per cent as its profits beat expectations.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.24 per cent or 14.85 points to 6,215.52 on Thursday.

New Zealand Refining Company led losses, falling 4.35 per cent as investors took profits after the company rose the previous session on full-year earnings results.

Retirement village operator Summerset lost 1 per cent, after gaining on Tuesday after posting a sharp jump in profit on Wednesday.

Air New Zealand rose 1.05 per cent after posting record half-year profit as the airline expanded routes helped by low fuel prices and a tourism boom.