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Australia shares edge lower; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares eased marginally on Monday, as financial stocks weakened.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 0.07 per cent or 4.156 points to 5986.600 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.3 per cent on Friday.

The financial index was down 0.6 per cent with the "Big Four" banks sliding between 0.3 per cent and 1.2 per cent.

The Australian government last week said it will hold a wide-ranging inquiry into a scandal-hit finance sector, arguing one was needed to restore public confidence as it reversed its long-held opposition amid mounting political pressure.

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Real estate and consumer discretionary stocks were the next biggest losers on the main index, with Lendlease Group falling 1.4 per cent and G8 Education Ltd plunging more than 23 per cent after the childcare centre operator lowered its earnings forecast for the 2017 financial year.

Meanwhile, Shanghai steel futures traded near their strongest level since mid-September on Friday while three-month LME copper rose 1.1 per cent, boosting building material stocks, which gained about one per cent.

Sector heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto added 1.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.

Rio signalled on Monday it will stick with its "value over volume" strategy, outlining further moves to boost shareholder returns and appointing a new chairman from within its board.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.05 per cent or 3.96 points to 8184.870.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest drag on the index with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd slipping over a per cent.

Building firm Fletcher Building lost about a per cent.