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Australia shares slip, weighed down by financial stocks; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Thursday in the wake of a subdued Wall Street response to the US tax overhaul, though gains by miners due to strong commodity prices capped losses.

The S&P/ASX 200 index, snapping a three-day winning streak, dropped 0.25 per cent or 15.200 points to 6,060.400 at the close of trade. The benchmark gained 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

Wall Street's main indexes declined on Wednesday, pausing after recent record highs as both houses of Congress approved a long-anticipated tax overhaul.

Australia's financial sector accounted for most of Thursday's loss. Its index declined 0.7 per cent after US financials slipped 0.3 per cent.

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The "Big Four" banks lost between 0.6 per cent to 0.9 per cent and were among the biggest drags on the benchmark.

Real estate stocks also fell. Property developer Scentre Group shed 1.9 per cent to a one and a half week low, and Mirvac Group dropped two per cent to its lowest since Dec 5.

Miners led the gains on the benchmark. They were underpinned by higher iron ore prices and overnight strengthening in copper prices, which hit a two-month high on Wednesday before slipping on year-end profit-taking.

The Australian metals and mining index rose one per cent to its highest close since February 2014. Heavyweight BHP climbed 1.4 per cent to a more than two and a half year high, and Rio Tinto ticked up to an over one-month high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 19.12 points to finish at 8,364.44, shrugging off better than expected GDP data released earlier in the day.

Industrials and telecommunication stocks led the slide, with Auckland International Airport declining 0.8 per cent to a near two-week low while Spark New Zealand dipped 0.6 per cent.

REUTERS