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Australia shares falter on slips in commodity prices; NZ strong


[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Friday, with gains in financials and energy offset by basic material stocks that lost traction in the wake of weak copper and Chinese iron futures prices.

Wall Street ending its Trump-fuelled rally ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend also kept sentiment subdued.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 6.3 points or 0.1 per cent to 5637.9 by 0103 GMT, ending a four-session bull run.

Copper prices fell to a one-month low on Thursday on the stronger US dollar and after a drop in imports by China fuelled demand worries.

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Chinese steel and iron ore futures continued to pull back, shedding 4 per cent on Thursday, after smog engulfing some territories in China affected trade.

Losses in both these metals, along with a strong US dollar, hurt metals giant BHP Billiton, which lost 1.8 per cent.

Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals followed suit, shaving off more than 2 per cent each.

"The (basic materials) sector has done pretty well over the last couple of months, post (US presidential) election, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a bit of profit-taking before the holidays," said Danial Moradi, an equity strategist with Lonsec.

Tatts, Australia's largest betting operator, fell 3 per cent when it rejected a US$5.27 billion takeover bid from a consortium backed by KKR and Macquarie Group, in favour of the offer from Tabcorp Holdings.

Energy shares outperformed when overnight oil prices recovered, underpinned by strong US economic data and optimism producers would abide by the agreement to limit output.

The US Commerce Department issued data showing that the economy grew at 3.5 per cent in the third quarter, the strongest growth rate since the third quarter of 2014.

Oil majors Woodside Petroleum rose 0.7 per cent, while Oil Search added 0.4 per cent.

Financials, which have rallied since Donald Trump's election to president, continued their upward trend, with all the "Big four" banks higher.

ANZ Banking hit its highest in 16 months, gaining as much as 0.6 per cent. The stock rose for a fifth week, out of seven weeks, after Donald Trump's election as President of the US.

National Australia Bank hit a 13-month high, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose to an 11-month high, both up for a seventh straight week.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 25.12 points to 6,876.9, gaining for a fifth session, and led by industrials.

Auckland International Airport was the biggest gainer on the index, up 2.3 per cent, after reporting a 12.9 per cent increase in international passengers for November.

Exchange operator NZX Ltd rose a per cent, while Heartland Bank gained 2 per cent.