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Australia: Shares extend losses

[SYDNEY] Australian shares lost ground for the third session on Tuesday, tracking falls in regional equity markets as tensions escalated on the Korean peninsula after North Korea fired a missile over northern Japan.

The losses were led by financials, pressuring the S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.7 per cent, or 40.892 points, to 5669 at the close. The benchmark fell 0.6 per cent on Monday.

The selloff was triggered by North Korea firing a ballistic missile over Japan's northern Hokkaido island into the sea earlier on Tuesday, sharply escalating tensions in the region. The latest act of provocation by North Korea comes only weeks after US President Donald Trump engaged in a war of words with Pyongyang, which had threatened to fire missiles at Guam, a US held Pacific island.

The financial index extended its fall, closing lower for a fifth consecutive session as the big four banks lost roughly between 1.2 per cent and 1.3 per cent.

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Commonwealth Bank of Australia slumped to a nine-month low, extending losses after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) on Monday said it would establish an inquiry into the bank, following its alleged breaches of money-laundering and counter-terrorism finance rules.

Healthcare stocks also weighed on the market; the sector's index ended 0.9 per cent lower with CSL Ltd down 1.1 per cent.

The materials Index pared most of its losses on the back of a rise in base metal prices.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 2.2 per cent, while Northern Star Resources Ltd gained 3 per cent as gold prices rose for a third day.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.1 per cent, or 88.53 points, to finish the session at a two week low of 7,738.34.

The telecommunication sector was the biggest drag on the index as Chorus Ltd lost 7.7 per cent to end at a five-month low after it reported weak annual results on Monday that missed analysts' estimates.

Index heavyweight Fletcher Building Ltd and Telecommunications service provider Spark New Zealand Ltd lost 2.6 per cent and 1.5 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS