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Australia shares edge down as materials, financials fall; NZ up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares were trading flat with a downward bias on Friday as basic material and financial stocks fell, but were still on track to log their best month since December.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.2 per cent at 5,883.3 in lacklustre trading at 0101 GMT. The index is on track to log its best week since Nov 25.

"It's the last day of the quarter. The market had a pretty strong rally yesterday and it's just repositioning today," said Bill Keenan, general manager equities and researcher at Lonsec.

Miner BHP BIlliton lost 0.3 per cent while gold miner Newcrest Mining declined 0.7 per cent and was on track for a fourth straight session of losses. Dalian Commodity Exchange Iron ore futures erased gains on Thursday, while gold dipped as the US dollar strengthened.

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Financial stocks, which had been gaining for the past six sessions, fell on Friday with the 'Big 4' banks losing between 0.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commision (ACCC) on Friday denied authorization for banks to collectively bargain with Apple and boycott Apple Pay.

Meanwhile, banking watchdog Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority said it would place limits on interest-only residential loans to reinforce sound mortgage lending practices in a hot property market.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, included in the ACCC report, was up 0.8 per cent.

Energy stocks in the region fell with Woodside Petroleum Ltd losing 0.5 per cent.

Among gainers, telecom and utility sectors rose as Telstra Corporation Ltd gained nearly one percent and AGL Energy Ltd added 1.8 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose a marginal 14.61 points to 7,183.72 and was set for its fourth straight day of gains as consumer stocks rose.

Fletcher Building Ltd rose 0.8 per cent, while a2 Milk Company Ltd added 1.4 per cent.