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Australia shares dragged lower by financials, North Korea concerns; NZ up

[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed down on Wednesday as Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which is grappling with a money laundering scandal, lost further ground and dented other financials while simmering North Korean tensions checked overall risk appetite.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lower 0.3 per cent, or 16.53 points, at 5689.70. The benchmark gained 0.1 per cent on Tuesday.

Geopolitical tensions continued to simmer after North Korea's biggest-ever nuclear test over the weekend, discouraging investments in riskier assets. One of North Korea's top diplomats on Tuesday said, Pyongyang is ready to send "more gift packages" to the United States.

Financials accounted for nearly three-fourth of the losses on the index, with the financial index down 1.2 per cent.

Market voices on:

"The banking sector is down and CBA just continues to free fall due to its issues with Austrac," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking for Argonaut in Perth.

CBA shares fell 1.2 per cent to an almost nine-month closing low.

On Tuesday, Australia's second biggest company by market value was slapped with a class action lawsuit over a money-laundering scandal by litigation financier IMF Bentham.

The rest of the "Big Four" banks followed suit, falling in the range of 0.5 per cent to 2.2 per cent.

Earlier in the day, data showed the Australian economy expanded 0.8 per cent in the second quarter, up from the first quarter though the widely expected result had little impact on equities.

At the other end, Australia's metal and mining index and the gold index finished the day 0.5 per cent up each.

Major miners BHP Billiton finished 0.4 per cent up , Rio Tinto was up 0.2 per cent and Fortescue Metals Group advanced 0.5 per cent.

Gold miner Evolution Mining closed nearly two per cent up, its highest in more than a year.

CSL was the best performer on the index, rising 1.1 per cent to a near eight-week closing high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.2 per cent, or 12.81 points, to 7,790.2 at close.

Global dairy prices climbed higher at an auction on Wednesday, with analysts saying prices could continue to rise as wet weather in New Zealand hits production Dairy firm a2 Milk Company closed at a record high, up 2.5 per cent, while Fletcher Building was the worst performer on the index, finishing 1.7 per cent down.