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Australia shares on track to snap four quarters of gains; NZ falls


[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell as much as 1.7 per cent on Friday, posting their biggest intra-day percentage fall since Nov 2016, with investors taking their cue from Wall Street's overnight slump.

By 1:57pm, the S&P/ASX 200 index stood at 5,730.60 points, 1.5 per cent, or 87.5 points, lower than Thursday's close.

The index is on track to snap four-straight quarters of gains.

Global equity investors are concerned about the rise in interest rates globally, as a slew of hawkish comments from central banks signalled the beginning of the end of a long phase of ultra-loose monetary policies.

"The sell off clearly took its lead from the overnight markets in the US where we saw some pretty substantial drops," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking for Argonaut Ltd in Perth.

"The market has given back all of yesterday's burst of energy, and we are looking at a very soft finish to the financial year in Australia," said McGlew. The index had gained 1.1 per cent on Thursday.

Shares in Australia's "big-four" banks fell between 1.3 per cent and 1.5 per cent.

BT Investment Management was the top loser on the index after it shed 6.6 per cent to fall to its lowest in over two weeks.

Real-estate stocks were another major drag on the index. Cromwell Property Group fell as much as 2.6 per cent to its lowest in a month while Dexus Property Group slipped as much as 3.3 per cent, hitting a more than three-month low. Among other sectors, materials slipped 1.2 per cent, shrugging off the rise in commodity prices over night.

BHP Billiton Ltd dropped 1.1 per cent while South32 Ltd fell 2.2 per cent after it suspended mining operations at Appin colliery.

Rio Tinto Ltd slipped 0.4 per cent snapping six sessions of gains. The miner's shareholders approved sale of a suite of Australian coal assets to Yancoal Australia for US$2.69 billion, ending a bidding war with commodities trader Glencore GLEN.L.

Among the gainers were Mineral Resources Ltd and Isentia Group Ltd which rose 7.8 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively. New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.8 per cent, or 60.84 points, to 7,624.61. Telecom stocks and healthcare weighed on the index. Spark New Zealand Ltd fell 3.9 per cent while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd shed 1.5 per cent.