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Australia: Shares end weaker as banks, materials weigh

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ticked down on Thursday as materials firms lost ground on lower commodities prices, while banks slumped ahead of an interim report from a powerful inquiry into the financial services sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged down 0.2 per cent or 11.10 points to 6,181.20 at the close of trade. The benchmark tacked on 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

Banks bore the brunt of the losses on the day, with the financial index slipping for the fourth day in a row, down 0.3 per cent at a more than three-month low.

The financial sector has been put to the sword ahead of the Royal Commission's interim report due on Friday.

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The quasi-judicial Royal Commission inquiry has already revealed widespread wrongdoing in Australian financial services, making it the worst-performing ASX sector this year.

Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.7 per cent to its lowest since Sept 13, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd dipped 0.6 per cent to a more than three-month low.

Materials were also in the red, hurt by a weakness in iron ore and copper prices.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 1 per cent, while Newcrest Mining Ltd traded 1.4 per cent lower.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.7 per cent or 63.45 points to finish the session at a more than one-week low of 9,286.4.

Utilities and consumer staples accounted for most of the losses, with Meridian Energy Ltd falling 3.6 per cent to a two-week low, while dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd dropped 2.5 per cent to its lowest since Sept 10.

REUTERS