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Australia shares end at 3-week lows as financial stocks weigh; NZ softer


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended at a three-week low on Wednesday, dragged down by financial stocks, which trailed their US peers lower amid caution ahead of Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's semi-annual congressional testimony later in the day.

The Australian benchmark index finished at its lowest level since June 21, down about one per cent at 5,673.8. Markets will closely watch Ms Yellen's comments before the House Financial Services Committee for clues on the pace of US monetary policy tightening, though no major changes to the policy outlook are expected.

Investors are also lying low ahead of major US second quarter earnings reports later this week with big banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup, due to report on Friday.

Financial stocks were the biggest losers on the benchmark with the big banks shedding in a range of one per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Healthcare stocks too were among the top decliners with CSL Ltd, a sector heavyweight, posting a 2.5 per cent loss.

The basic materials sector was the only one to gain with its miners supported by an uptick in commodity prices.

Big miners BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue added in a range of 0.1 per cent to 0.8 per cent, helped by a surge in iron ore and base metals prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 0.6 per cent lower at 7,586.02.

Telecom and industrial stocks were the top losers with Auckland International Airport and Spark New Zealand shedding 1.6 per cent and 1.2 per cent, respectively.