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Australia shares fall, ending 5 days of gains; NZ at record high

[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Thursday to break a five session run of gains, with financials and real estate stocks accounting for most of the losses.

The S&P 500 ended slightly lower on Wednesday pressured by the financial sector after the Federal Reserve announced a widely expected interest rate hike but kept its rate outlook for coming years unchanged as it projected faster US economic growth.

"The biggest risk certainly is what's going to happen in US. We're seeing a weakening in the US dollar, with the risk being that the Fed doesn't live up to standards simply because inflation is too weak.

"If that happens the US dollar would weaken even more and commodities would do better," said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.2 per cent or 10.5 points to 6,011.3 at the close of trade. The benchmark ticked up 0.14 per cent on Wednesday.

Financials were among the biggest drags on the benchmark on Thursday, with heavyweights Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd and National Australia Bank Ltd dipping 0.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively.

Real estate stocks accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark after driving the gains on Wednesday.

Shopping centre operator Westfield Corp declined 1.8 per cent after posting a record percentage gain on Wednesday when it announced a trade sale to European property giant Unibail-Rodamco.

Materials and energy stocks gained, helping to cap the benchmark's losses. Mining company South32 Ltd climbed 3.2 per cent, while Caltex Australia Ltd rose 3.7 per cent.

On the other hand, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 39.170 points or 0.47 per cent, driven by broad based gains, to finish the session at a record high of 8,323.750. The index registered six consecutive sessions of gains, its best winning streak since October.

Seven out of nine sectors accumulated profits, with consumer staples and materials pushing up the index.

a2 Milk Company Ltd and Fletcher Building Ltd rose 2.2 per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

REUTERS