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Australia shares slide as banks turn lower; NZ edges down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Friday, hurt by financials, while strong gains in the materials sector driven by gold and copper prices helped curtail some of the losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7 per cent, or 41.44 points to 5,836.9 by 0233 GMT. The benchmark is on track to end the week flat.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp both fell 0.7 per cent, dragging the financials index lower.

"On the bank side of things, it continues to be dominated by the levy," said Tony Farnham, economist at Patersons Securities.

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"We had the shake-out on Tuesday on banks. Then on Wednesday and Thursday people were sniffing around for a bargain at lower prices, (thinking) things are not quite as bad as people first thought. Now, that is open for debate. If they cut dividends, a lot of income-conscious people will be miffed," Mr Farnham added.

Sentiment was also affected by Wall Street, which fell on Thursday after worse-than-expected sales drops at Macy's and Kohls Corp sparked a sell-off in shares of department stores and stirred fears that consumers are not spending enough to drive strong economic growth.

The declines on the Australian benchmark were broad-based with nine out of 10 sectors in the red.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the index by a 5.2-to-1 ratio.

The mining sector was among the few bright spots, underpinned by a rise in gold and copper prices.

Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.8 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively, as copper prices touched a one week-high on Thursday after funds cut bearish bets.

In the gold space, Newcrest Mining Ltd jumped as much as 4.1 per cent, posting its biggest intra-day per centage gain in eight weeks, after the yellow metal rose on Thursday following eight sessions in which prices had been flat or lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.3 per cent, or 20.08 points, to 7,469.63.

Most real estate stocks were in the red after data from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand showed that the pace of house price growth in the country slowed in April.

A2 Milk Ltd was the biggest drag, falling as much as 5.8 per cent to record its biggest intra-day percentage fall in eleven weeks. The dairy company had touched a record high in the earlier session.

In other stocks, Kathmandu Holdings fell 4.3 per cent while Freightways Ltd was 1.4 per cent lower.