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Australia shares dip on weak materials; NZ steady


[BENGALURU] Low iron ore and copper prices weighed on Australian basic materials shares on Friday, taking the ASX 200 index 0.23 per cent or 13.11 points lower to 5,800 at 0113 GMT. The index rose 0.1 per cent on Thursday.

"Materials and energy have been outperforming for a while, so today's performance is a correction in what's been a strong period for the mining sector," said Damien Hennessy, co-founder of Heuristic Investment Systems.

Chinese iron ore futures slid more than 2 per cent on Thursday. "There's a lot of uncertainty around where the price of iron ore should be, it was being picked up by a rise in demand and supply disruptions and restrictions particularly out of China".

Global miner BHP Billiton shed 1.7 per cent, as management and worker positions in a strike at its Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world's largest mine, remain distant.

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Rio Tinto dropped 1.9 per cent.

Healthcare stocks were the second biggest losers on the index, with Ansell and CSL dropping as much as 2.7 per cent and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Energy stocks mirrored their Wall Street peers, with the benchmark energy index dropping 0.9 per cent, on track for its fourth losing session.

Electricity generator Origin Energy dropped to its lowest in more than a month, shedding about 3 per cent.

Virgin Australia also fell about 1.3 per cent after posting a 48-per cent fall in its first-half underlying pre-tax earnings.

The ASX financial index rose to its highest in more than a month before paring most of the gains, as a strong advance by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was offset by health insurer Medibank which lost as much as 5.7 per cent during the day.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group clocked its biggest per centage gain in more than two months after its first quarter cash profit rose 31 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 per cent or 7.78 points to 7092.2.

Manufacturing activity dipped in January from the previous month, a survey showed on Friday.

Healthcare, telecom and utilities were the worst performers on the index.

Retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare shed as much as 1.2 per cent.

Electricity provider Meridian Energy lost as much as 1.1 per cent, dropping to its lowest in a month and potentially facing a fifth losing session.