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Australia shares lower on material, financial stocks; NZ extends losses

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were lower on Friday, due to metal prices that fell sharply overnight and a decline in financials, but the index was on track to end the week higher snapping three weekly sessions of losses.

The main reason for the fall was metals prices coming off, particularly copper, said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. China was partly the cause, and partly because they rallied too far, he said.

Data from China on Thursday showed that fixed-asset investment in the first eight months along with August factory output and retail sales grew less than expected.

Further more, North Korea fired a missile that flew over Japan's northern Hokkaido far out into the Pacific Ocean, South Korean and Japanese officials said, following international sanctions imposed on it.

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"As far as the banks are concerned, I think today's selling is just a bit of caution related to the Korean missile tests... its also possible that it's a bit of profit taking with the rally we have seen in banks recently," Mr Spooner said.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent, or 35.878 points, to 5,702.8 by 0222 GMT but was on track to record a gain after three weeks of losses.

Material stocks led decliners on the index on the back on Chinese steel and iron ore futures that fell sharply on Thursday while copper dropped to a four-week low.

Miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto slumped 2.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent, respectively.

The country's biggest banks fell with Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia being the biggest drag shedding as much as one per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index shed 0.5 per cent, or 36.44 points, to 7,782.79, on track to posts its fourth consecutive day of losses.

The country's home sales fell sharply in August in the latest sign that its recently overheated housing market was losing steam, on the other hand manufacturing activity picked up pace in August.

Declines on the index were led by utilities stocks, followed by the health care and industrial sectors.

Energy generator and retailer Contact Energy Ltd fell as much as 1.1 per cent and Mercury NZ Ltd slid as much as 2.9 per cent to a near three month low Retirement village operator Metlifecare Ltd shed as much as 2.4 per cent and Air New Zealand Ltd slumped 3.8 per cent, to a one-month low, falling for its fourth consecutive day.