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Australia shares edge lower as miners slide; NZ up


[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Friday as mining stocks slipped following weakness in commodity prices, though gains in consumer staples and healthcare stocks helped stem some of the decline.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent, or 8.8 points to 6,005.8 at the close of trade. It fell 1.1 per cent over the week, a second consecutive weekly fall.

The materials sector was the biggest drag on the benchmark, weighed down by the gold index which slipped 1.3 per cent to fall for a fourth straight session.

Gold prices have come under pressure recently from higher US Treasury yields. Gold is a non-yielding asset so rising bond yields put its price under pressure.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining closed two per cent lower hitting a near one-month closing low, while peer Northern Star Resources fell 1.5 per cent.

Among iron ore miners, mining giant BHP Billiton fell 0.3 per cent, while Rio Tinto slipped over one per cent.

Iron ore futures in China edged lower on Friday heading for their first weekly drop in three weeks, as slower demand stalled a rally in steel prices after they surged nearly 50 per cent last year.

The country's financial index was marginally down with National Australia Bank shedding 0.2 per cent.

However, gains in consumer staples and healthcare stocks capped some of the losses on the benchmark index.

Treasury Wine Estates gained 2.7 per cent, rising for a fourth straight session, while biotherapeutics company CSL added 1.1 per cent to hit its highest close in more than six weeks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.21 per cent or 17.29 points to finish the session at 8,289.96. The index added 0.6 per cent over the week.

Consumer staples and healthcare stocks led the gains on the benchmark with a2 Milk Company closing 2.8 per cent higher and Ryman Healthcare rising 1.3 per cent.


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