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Australia shares close lower amid fresh political uncertainty

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended lower on Monday, as political concerns rattled investors after the governing coalition was set to lose its one-seat majority in parliament following a weekend by-election.

The poor showing by the government will make it harder to get legislation enacted, though its survival is not automatically threatened. The next election is not due until May 2019, although it could occur earlier if the Liberal-led coalition can't win the support of at least one independent MP and continue to govern.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.6 pct lower at 5904.9, adding to small losses on Friday.

Most of the sectors ended in the red with the financials index losing 0.8 per cent. The sector has been hit hard this year by revelations of widespread misconduct in a high-profile public inquiry.

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The country's "Big Four" banks closed between 0.7 per cent and 1 per cent lower, led by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group finishing 1 per cent down.

Healthcare stocks were also down, with index heavyweight CSL Ltd ending about 1.8 per cent lower. The stock, which has outperformed the ASX 200 this year on strong U.S. sales, has seen some consolidation recently.

Travel and tour operator Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd tumbled almost 10 per cent after it signalled less than stellar earnings growth at a shareholder meeting.

Among the gainers, mining stocks shed early losses to end higher, led by hopes for more stimulus in China - Australia's largest trading partner and a big buyer of its key resources exports.

Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto rose 0.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively.

The New Zealand stock market was closed for holiday.

REUTERS