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Australia: Shares hit by first 2017 loss

[SYDNEY] Australian shares suffered their first loss of the year on Tuesday, as financial stocks followed their US peers down and energy counters remained pressured by weaker oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, which had risen the past five sessions, fell 0.8 per cent, or 46.75 points, to 5,760.7 at the close of trade. The benchmark was up nearly 1 per cent on Monday.

Financial shares were the worst performers on the index, with their index losing 1 per cent, its biggest percentage loss in over a month, on a mix of profit-booking and poor sentiment from losses in US financial stocks.

The 'Big Four' Australian banks lost in a range of 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent, with ANZ recording its biggest percentage loss since mid-November at 1.5 per cent lower Energy shares were bruised by seesawing oil prices, which made a slight recovery from big losses in the previous session. However, analysts see risks that prices might fall.

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Oil and gas explorers Oil Search Ltd and Santos Ltd fell 1.3 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

While losses on the main index were broad based, miners saw some support from a firm Aussie dollar and higher base metal prices.

Rio Tinto gained 1 per cent, while Fortescue added 2 per cent. BHP Billiton, which has significant oil exposure, couldn't jump onto the band-wagon and lost 0.4 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.4 per cent, or 24.84 points, higher at 7,037.58, led primarily by industrials and utilities.

Financials were the biggest losers.

Mainfreight Ltd and Auckland International Airport , both rising more than 2 per cent, were the index's biggest gainers.

ANZ's NZ-listed shares were the biggest net losers on the benchmark.