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Australia shares pulled down by financials; NZ flat

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were lower on Monday, dragged down by financials as Westpac and ANZ, two of the country's 'Big Four' banks, went ex-dividend.

Westpac declined 3.4 per cent and ANZ fell 3.2 per cent, both trading at their lowest in more than a month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.2 per cent lower or 13.972 points to 6015.4 by 0048 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.3 per cent on Friday.

The Australian benchmark index was also lower in line with Wall Street's decline on Friday. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the week lower for the first time in nine weeks, while the S&P 500 Financial index declined 0.3 per cent.

Market voices on:

Investors in the United States turned cautious after Senate Republicans unveiled a tax plan on Nov 9 that differed from the House of Representatives' version on several key fronts.

Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at the Australian Stock Report said that the difference in the two tax reform plans had traders worried that there might be delays in getting it through.

Mr Conway noted that Australian shares had risen in the wake of strong US market rallies and could therefore fall back if US sentiment changed and markets there fell.

The local financial index retreated as much as 0.9 per cent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, however climbed as much as 0.7 per cent to a two-month high.

Materials stocks offset some of the losses on the index, rising on the back of metals prices. Zinc rose 1.8 per cent, lead gained 1.4 per cent, and nickel was up 0.4 per cent.

Global miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton rose as much as 1.9 per cent and 0.8 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index traded down 0.43 points lower to 7,974 or was flat.

The a2 Milk Company Ltd gained as much as 5.3 per cent and Meridian Energy Ltd rose as much as 1.1 per cent.

Xero Ltd weighed on the index falling as much as 5 per cent to its lowest in more than a month.