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Australia: Shares slip on financials; NZ rises on a2 Milk


[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged down on Thursday, with banks leading the way lower.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, which has lost ground the past five sessions, was down 9.50 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6023.0 at 0324 GMT. The benchmark declined 0.2 per cent on Wednesday.

Thursday's biggest gainer was gambling equipment maker Aristocrat Leisure, which reported a solid rise in first-half profit.

The financial index, which has also declined five straight days, dipped 0.9 per cent to a near four-week low.

"The ongoing Royal Commission enquiry into the sector is clearly having an impact," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

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Financials have lost more than 1 per cent since the third round of Australia's inquiry into the industry began on Monday.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd slipped 0.9 per cent to its lowest since May 14 and National Australia Bank Ltd slid as much as 1.3 per cent.

An Australian court on Thursday rejected the regulator's rate-rigging case against Westpac Banking Corp.

Mr McCarthy said with the clearance for the manipulation charge and the expected penalties, the impact on the bank's bottom line should be small.

Shares of the second-biggest lender were 1 per cent lower.

Material stocks on Thursday also had losses, due to overnight weakness in iron ore and copper prices.

Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd dipped 0.7 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd dropped as much as 1.5 per cent to its lowest since April 30.

A fall in oil prices led to weakness in energy stocks, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd dropping 1 per cent, while Oil Search Ltd declined as much as 1.7 per cent to a two-week low.

Aristocrat Leisure Ltd surged 8.1 per cent to its highest ever level. It said net profit for the half ended March 31 rose 2.8 per cent as digital revenue more than tripled.

Consumer staples were also higher, propped up by gains in Australia-listed shares of A2 Milk Company Ltd, which rose 6.8 per cent, their biggest intraday percentage advance in more than three months.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.7 per cent or 61.50 points to 8,614.73.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd accounted for most of the gains, rising as much as 6.5 per cent to its highest since May 22. The stock lost nearly 14 per cent the past four-days.


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