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Australia shares ease on Telstra dividend shock; NZ market extends record run

[BENGALURU] Australian shares turned lower on Thursday, snapping three sessions of gains, as Telstra's stock crumbled to a near five-year low after it stunned investors with plans to slash its dividend.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1 per cent or 5.9 points to 5,779.2 at the close of trade.

Telstra was the biggest drag on the index, plummeting more than 10 per cent to record its worst day since 2008 after saying it would trim dividends by 30 per cent this financial year, the first cut since Australia's biggest telecoms firm got listed in 1997.

Among the other big losers was QBE Insurance Group which fell 7.1 per cent to its lowest since November, after the nation's biggest insurer said its overall payout ratio worsened due to a claims blowout in its emerging markets unit.

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Despite the net decline, advancing issues on the benchmark outnumbered declining ones by a 1.5-to-1 ratio.

Gains in materials sector helped contain the broad market losses with global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto climbing 1 per cent and 1.4 per cent, respectively, after copper and aluminium prices scaled multi-year highs leading a broad-based rally in metals.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 16.72 points to finish the session at a fresh record closing-high of 7,870.06.

Air New Zealand and Kathmandu Holdings were the top gainers, advancing 2.1 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

REUTERS

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