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Australia shares end lower, hit by weak materials; NZ at record closing high

[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished lower on Tuesday, snapping two straight sessions of gains, hurt by weakness on Wall Street and falling material stocks amid lower commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.22 per cent, or 12.73 points to 5,671 at the close of trade.

The day started on a cautious note after US stocks slipped overnight, led by a selloff in technology shares and the latest exchange of inflammatory remarks between North Korea and Washington.

Financials, materials and consumer discretionary stocks were the biggest drags on the index.

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The financial index slipped 0.4 per cent. Among the "Big Four" banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ fell 0.9 per cent and 0.5 per cent, respectively, while Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd traded flat.

Mining stocks slipped 0.5 per cent to almost a five-week low, hurt by a sharp decline in coking coal and iron ore prices.

Coking coal was down more than 5 per cent as some Chinese factories reopened after recent environmental inspections, adding to glut worries, while iron ore prices edged lower as the market continued to worry about waning restocking demand at mills.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto dropped 0.7 per cent and 0.2 per cent, both hitting an intraday low of over a month.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd lost 2 per cent, closing at its weakest since July 24.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent, or 17.41 points, to finish at a record-closing high of at 7,887.18.

Consumer staples and information technology stocks led the gains, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd rising to a fresh record high and software company Xero Ltd jumping 1.1 per cent. Both stocks were among the top gainers on the index.

REUTERS