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Australia: Shares end the day lower

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares ended lower on Monday as weaker commodity prices took a toll on mining and energy stocks, while financials slipped on lingering worries stemming from a government levy on deposits.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.8 per cent, or 44.56 points, at 5,707.10, with trading largely sparse as markets were closed for holidays in China, Britain and the United States.

The benchmark had added 0.4 per cent last week.

Major miners Rio Tinto and BHP fell 1.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively after Australian media on Sunday reported that both firms could be hit by an iron ore tax in Western Australia. The world's no.4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group shed 3 per cent on persistent weakness in ore prices.

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Financial stocks extended a four-week losing streak, mainly hurt by government's early-May announcement that it was placing a levy on deposits for the country's biggest banks.

The financial index was down 1.4 per cent, its biggest fall since December, 2016. The 'Big Four' banks fell between 1.3 per cent and nearly 2 per cent.

"The sector has fallen out of favour since the announcemnt of the bank levy," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

New Zealand's benchmark index finished down 0.4 per cent, or 28.83 points, at 7412.74, dragged down by financials and consumer stocks.

Dairy company a2 Milk, down 3.2 per cent, was the biggest loser on the benchmark.