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Australia: Shares end lower as banks slip


[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended the bumpy week on a negative note on Friday, as banks eased after investors booked profits while New Zealand's stock market recorded its sixth week of gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 38.65 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 5,722.8 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.5 per cent on Thursday. For the week, the index was down 0.7 per cent.

A gauge of financial stocks posted its second weekly gain but ended about 0.8 per cent lower while the 'Big Four' banks - Commonwealth Bank, Westpac Banking Corp , ANZ Banking Group and National Australia Bank Ltd - closed between 0.5 to 1.1 per cent lower.

Financials had rallied as the banks, especially the Big Four, declared they were comfortable with new capital rules unveiled by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) on Wednesday.

Market voices on:

Global miner BHP Billiton was the biggest laggard on the benchmark ending about 1.9 per cent lower. Activist shareholder Elliott Management voiced concerns over BHP's proposal to enter the over-supplied fertiliser market.

Index heavyweights Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group dragged material stocks down along with BHP, slipping 2.1 per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.58 points, or 0.02 per cent to finish the session at 7,670.86. The index finished the week up 0.3 per cent, sealing its sixth week of gains since mid-June.

The index was little changed as gains in health care and utility stocks outweighed losses in the materials sector.

Fletcher Building was among the biggest percentage decliners while Fisher and Mercury NZ Ltd led gainers.