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Australia shares fall as banks weigh; NZ crawls higher

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended slightly weaker on Monday, led lower by financial stocks, as two of the nation's"Big Four" banks, Westpac and ANZ, traded ex-dividend.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 7.6 points or 0.1 per cent to 6,021.8 at the close of trade.

Westpac Banking lost 2.3 per cent and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shed 2.7 per cent with both banks touching their lowest in over one month.

Industrials were among the other losing stocks as toll road operator Transurban Group and Sydney Airport Holdings slid 1.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively.

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Index losses were partially offset by material stocks, which rose on the back of strong iron ore and steel prices as output cuts in major Chinese steelmaking cities tightened supply.

Mining heavyweights Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton rose 1.1 per cent and 0.8 per cent apiece.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index snapped six straight losing sessions to end marginally higher.

The country's main index was up two points at 7976.43, with losses in technology stocks largely offset by gains in consumer staples.

Accounting software company Xero Ltd weighed on the index, falling 4.2 per cent and ended at its lowest in over one month.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd closed up nearly 4 per cent and was the top gainer on the main index.