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Australia: Shares dip on materials and energy; a2 Milk boosts NZ

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ticked down on Friday, led by weakness in materials and energy stocks as prices of commodities and crude oil fell.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1 per cent or 4.40 points to 6,032.70 by 0232 GMT. The benchmark had gained 0.1 per cent on Thursday.

Materials, especially miners ,led the declines on Friday, hurt by an overnight fall in copper prices. The metals and mining index fell 0.8 percent to a more than two-week low.

Global miner BHP declined 1.8 per cent to its lowest since May 11, while its rival Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.4 per cent.

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BHP, which owns shale assets in US, was also hurt by a fall in oil prices, making it the biggest drag on the benchmark.

Oil prices eased on Friday as Russia hinted it may gradually increase output. The news drove down energy stocks 1.7 per cent to a more than two-week low.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd dipped as much as 2.6 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage fall in more than three-months, while Origin Energy Ltd dropped 1.5 per cent to a near four-week low.

Elsewhere, Aristocrat Leisure Ltd surged 4.7 per cent to a record high after accounting for most of the gains on Thursday, helped by strong profit growth.

Moody's and Deutsche Bank also cheered the gaming machine maker's earnings, lending support to the stock.

Wesfarmers rose 0.9 per cent to a more than one-year high and was among the most dominanat gainers.

The conglomerate said it is divesting its money-losing Homebase business in the United Kingdom and Ireland to an associate firm of London-based Hilco Capital for an undisclosed amount and at a loss.

Treasury Wine Estates Ltd firmed 2.9 per cent, its biggest intraday percentage gain since May 9.

The world's biggest listed winemaker has traded positively since Chinese Foreign Ministry said it is handling customs processes as normal for imports of Australian wines on Wednesday, after Treasury Wine said it faced delays getting some products into China.

Meanwhile, Australia-listed shares of a2 Milk Company, which relies heavily on sales to China, extended gains, rising 2.8 per cent.

Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut said the dairy firm was rising on news that China will dismantle its one child policy.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent or 50.44 points to 8,641.21.

Consumer stocks led the gains, with a2 Milk Company Ltd surging as much as 4.8 per cent, while Synlait Milk Ltd rose 1.9 per cent.

REUTERS