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Australia: Shares hurt by materials losses, CSL shines on profit upgrade; NZ gain

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares pulled back slightly on Friday as weak commodity prices hit material stocks and tempered a rally in the healthcare sector, which was buoyed by an earnings upgrade from biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 11.30 points, or 0.19 per cent lower at 6,083 by 0207 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Thursday and is poised to end the week lower.

The healthcare sector rose to an all-time high, helped by CSL Ltd, which soared as much as 5.6 per cent to a record-high A$185.53.

The rally came after the biotherapeutics company said it expected full-year after-tax profit to be in range of about US$1.68 billion to US$1.71 billion, higher than an earlier forecast of US$1.55 billion to US$1.60 billion, underpinned by a severe influenza season in northern hemisphere.

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It was CSL's second earnings upgrade this year.

Miners BHP and Rio Tinto fell over 1 per cent each, dragging the benchmark lower.

China's iron ore and other steelmaking raw materials slipped for a second session on Thursday, while analysts said they expect softer demand in the coming months as the country shifts its focus from heavy industries to services.

In the financial sector, lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group was higher while other three of the 'Big Four' fell between 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent.

Chief market strategist at CMC Markets, Michael McCarthy, said that investors were trimming positions heading into the weekend.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.25 per cent, or 21.53 points, to 8,624.91.

Ryman Healthcare drove gains on the index, rising as much as 3 per cent, after reporting a 14 per cent jump in its full-year profit.

Goodman Property Trust supported gains in the real estate sector, up as much as 2.5 per cent to an over 10-year high.

The property investor will sell its majority-held VXV office portfolio to a number of Blackstone funds for NZ$635 million (S$587.3 million), the property trust's manager said.

REUTERS