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Australia: Shares retreat as banks, healthcare down; NZ market at record high

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged down on Wednesday on disappointing corporate earnings for the likes of CSL and pressure from Commonwealth Bank of Australia which traded ex-dividend.

The market was also dragged lower by large-cap iron ore miners such as Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, which fell 0.7 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively, hurt by persistent weakness in steel and iron ore futures in China.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.2 per cent to 5748.7 by 0259 GMT.

Financial stocks were in the red, with Australia's No. 2 lender CBA sliding as much as 3.8 per cent to its lowest in more than two months after going ex-dividend.

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The bank has been in hot water lately due to the damaging publicity about a money-laundering lawsuit which has forced its CEO to announce his retirement.

Elsewhere, the healthcare sector lost ground, led by CSL Ltd skidding as much as 6.4 per cent for its biggest intra-day percentage fall in a year after its earnings undershot expectations.

The biopharmaceutical company reported a 7.6 per cent rise in its annual profit and said it would not buy back shares in 2018. "It is all based on where the expectations were." said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at the Australian Stock Report. "The numbers were good, but it fell short of what people wanted and what people were expecting."

Broadcaster Seven West Media tumbled as much as 6.3 per cent, marking its biggest loss in six months as large write-downs pushed the company to an annual loss.

On the upside, the energy index drew support from higher prices and as positive earnings from Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy boosted sentiment.

Shares of Woodside Petroleum, Australia's biggest independent oil and gas producer, jumped 5.6 per cent to a two-month peak after its half-year profit rose 49 per cent.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose as much as 0.4 per cent to 7845.13, hitting a fresh all-time high.

The gains were largely underpinned by financial and material stocks. Insurer CBL Corp was the top performer, rising more than 2 per cent.