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Australia shares down as materials rally loses momentum; NZ down

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BENGALURA] Australian shares broke a five-day winning streak on Friday as the recent rally in material stocks paused for breath, while sentiment was further dampened by a weak finish overnight on Wall Street.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent or 12.2 points to 5,868.8 at the close of trade, but finished the week 0.7 per cent higher. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Thursday.

Wall Street's three major indices closed lower on Thursday, with tobacco stocks leading a tumble in consumer staples while concerns about smartphone demand hurt the technology sector.

In the commodities market, London aluminium and nickel prices slid as a rally driven by fears of supply disruptions caused by US sanctions on Russia's Rusal, the world's second-biggest aluminium producer, lost momentum.

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Global miner Rio Tinto shed 1.1 per cent while gold miner Evolution Mining was among the top losers on the index, falling 5.4 per cent.

The Australian Financial Review on Thursday reported that JPMorgan and Citi's equities desks are selling 84.6 million shares in Evolution, representing a 5 per cent stake.

Telecom stock Telstra Corp fell 1 per cent to settle at its lowest close since November 2011.

Financials stocks added to the pressure on the index, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia reversing early gains to slip 0.5 per cent.

An Australian inquiry into financial sector misconduct claimed its first scalp on Friday as the chief executive of the country's largest wealth manager AMP Ltd stepped down over revelations of board-level deception and misappropriation of funds.

Shares of AMP, which rose as much as 2.7 per cent earlier, finished 0.5 per cent lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.6 per cent or 49.81 points to finish the session at 8,323.22.

The index finished the week 0.2 per cent lower.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest drags on the index, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation and Ryman Healthcare finishing 2.8 per cent and 1.7 per cent lower, respectively.

Construction firm Fletcher Building countered some of the losses on the index, up 2.5 per cent after a three-day trading halt to allow the company to carry out a capital raise.

REUTERS