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Australia: Shares continue downward trend; dragged by weak oil


[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell 1.26 per cent on Thursday, a third consecutive declining day, dragged by weakness in oil prices, although the materials sector lent some support with a rise in iron ore prices propping up the index.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 63.15 points to 5017.3 by 0203 GMT. The benchmark shed 0.55 per cent on Wednesday.

The index is on track to post a third consecutive week of losses. "I think it was a particularly negative session in the US although there wasn't any major news released. Technically the S&P500 closed below the 200-day moving average and the 50-day moving average so it's looking quite vulnerable at this stage,"said Julia Lee, equities analyst at Bell Direct.

Rio Tinto rose up 2.31 per cent while shares in BHP Billiton gained 1.57 per cent.

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Shares were unaffected by protesters chaining themselves to equipment to disrupt exports from Australia's largest coal terminals.

The "Big Four" banks were lower with National Australia Bank falling 3.07 per cent, while Westpac Bank, ANZ and Commonwealth Bank were all down more than 2 per cent. "Going into the second half of the month is usually a more positive time for the Australian market, when we see three of the Big Four banks paying dividends. "The next couple of weeks we might see a bit of support from dividend payments hitting bank accounts from the big banks", Lee said.

Shares in payments firm Mobile Embrace Ltd soared to a 15-year high after securing a deal with Asian telecommunications group Axiata Group Bhd.

Asian stocks slipped as weak oil prices continued to feed global growth worries. Wall Street ended lower after a choppy session as oil resumed its decline.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.27 per cent or 16.62 points to 6,036.93 on Thursday.

Coats Group led losses, falling 2.59 per cent, continuing to fall since the UK-listed threadmaker announced last month it was planning to de-list from the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges next year.

Casino operator Sky City fell 1.39 per cent and milk processor A2 Milk ATM .NZ was down 1.7 per cent.

Energy companies gained with Vector rising 0.95 per cent, Meridian Energy up 0.67 per cent and Genesis Energy gaining 0.79 per cent.