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Australia: Shares close weaker on Wall Street softness

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares closed marginally lower on Tuesday, taking cues from Wall Street, which dipped over concerns that President Donald Trump's plan to cut taxes and boost the economy could take longer than previously expected.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged lower by 0.1 per cent, or 4.31 points, to 5,774.6 points at the close of trade.

The materials sector was the biggest drag on the index, led by losses in miners BHP Billiton and South32 Ltd which fell 1 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively.

Sentiment was affected by steel and iron ore futures in China which retreated 3 per cent after recent sharp gains.

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Real estate stocks Scentre Group and Goodman Group Pty Ltd were also in the red after Australia's central bank warned of growing risks in the hot housing market.

Meanwhile, cleaner-caterer Spotless Group jumped 49 per cent to close at a five-month high after Downer EDI offered to buy the company for A$1.27 billion ($978.5 million).

Despite the overall declines, advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a ratio of 1.3-to-1.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 28.49 points to finish the session at 7,085.54.

A2 Milk was the biggest gainer, rising 4.5 per cent to close at an all-time high, after reports that China had backed down on cross border e-commerce laws that had threatened to disrupt the flow of Australian vitamins and milk powder in Chinese markets.