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Australia shares hit by financials, but miners help trim losses; NZ weaker


[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended down on Monday, though gains by miners on the back of some heartening Chinese economic data helped to trim broad market losses that were driven by the financial sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.65 per cent lower at 6,653 points at the close, having fallen as much as 0.9 per cent earlier.

The benchmark declined 0.3 per cent on Friday and was off 0.8 per cent last week.

While China's second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data showed growth slowed to 6.2 per cent year-on-year as expected, its weakest pace in at least 27 years, June industrial output and retail sales numbers comfortably beat forecasts.

The encouraging data for June suggested Beijing's earlier growth-boosting measures may be starting to kick in. Markets expect more government support to lift consumption and investment and restore business confidence.

The mining sector, most of whose constituents export commodities to China, rose 0.3 per cent. The sector's biggest players were also helped by a rise in iron ore prices on Monday on hopes of an uptick in demand.

Australia-listed shares of global miners Rio Tinto finished up 0.4 per cent, while BHP Group ended up 0.1 per cent.

However, losses in financial stocks offset gains by miners, with the financial sub-index sliding 0.8 per cent.

Wealth manager AMP was the top loser on both the sub-index and the benchmark, shedding nearly 16 per cent on the day to a record low.

Its shares dived after the company said the sale of its life insurance and wealth protection business was unlikely to proceed on existing terms due to regulatory constraints in New Zealand. AMP also cancelled its interim dividend.

Shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp, which had recently been pulled up by New Zealand regulators for disclosure breaches, were off 1 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

Their 'Big Four' banking peers Commonwealth Bank and National Australia Bank lost more than 0.5 per cent each.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.3 per cent lower at 10,666.56.

Meridian Energy and Mercury New Zealand were the top decliners on the main board, down 3.1 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.