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Australia shares down as Healthscope sinks; NZ falls


[SYDNEY] Australian shares were lower on Friday, dragged down by healthcare stocks, after Healthscope Ltd tumbled more than 26 per cent following a profit warning.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5 per cent, or 28.4 points, to 5413.7 by 0104 GMT. The index is on track for its second consecutive week of losses.

Healthscope slumped to an eight-month low and posted its biggest intra-day per centage fall after company said it has experienced slower than expected revenue growth in hospitals in the first quarter.

The stock was heavily traded, with 42.8 million shares changing hands, about nine times its 30-day average volume.

Its peers Ramsay Health Care and CSL fell 5.7 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

Energy stocks were down 1 per cent, after oil prices slid on a resurgent dollar, encouraging players to take profit on the previous day's rally that sent US crude to 15-month highs.

The US dollar hit seven-month highs against a basket of currencies and a three-month peak versus the euro after the European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged and US data showed home resales surged in September.

"The US dollar strength is the big story for me overnight, predominantly driven by Euro weakness more than anything else,"said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Ltd in Melbourne.

Oil Search dropped 1.5 per cent, while Santos Ltd lost 0.5 per cent despite reporting an 11 per cent rise in sales revenue in the September quarter.

The gold index fell 2.4 per cent, as the gold price eased slightly after three days of gains, with Newcrest Mining Ltd down 2.7 per cent.

At the other end, BHP Billiton rose 0.8 per cent. Brazilian prosecutors charged 21 employees of Samarco, a joint venture between the company and Vale SA, with homicide for a dam collapse last November that killed 19 people.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 14.4 points to 6959.38.

Consumer discretionary stocks were the biggest drag on the index, with Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd falling more than 10 per cent to its lowest in a year, after warning that it is likely to be adversely affected by the detention of Crown Resorts employees in China.

Orion Health was the top per centage gainer on the benchmark, rising as much as 3.8 per cent to record its biggest intra-day gain in three weeks.