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Australia: Shares touch lower on Greek nerves; banks, resources down


[SYDNEY] Australian shares barely moved on Friday and struggled to add to the previous session's solid gains as banks and resources dropped while nervousness over Greece's debt talks depressed sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.14 per cent, or 7.75 points, to 5,548.9 by 0303 GMT. The benchmark rose 1.4 per cent on Thursday, its biggest per centage gain in six weeks.

Australia's resource-dependent economy has been hurt by a crash in commodity prices with the benchmark falling each month since March. It is set to post a small gain this week after falling the most in three years the week before. "I think our market is trying to find a bottom after the correction of the last few weeks," Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy, AMP Capital said. "Most commodities fell overnight, that's certainly not helping. The decline in bond yields might explain why some of the defensive stocks have picked up." The healthcare sector, up 0.55 per cent, was resilient with Healthscope and Medibank up more than 1 per cent each.

Mining giant BHP fell 0.9 per cent and Rio Tinto dropped 0.7 per cent. Banking stocks also felt the pain with Westpac Bank falling 1.2 per cent and National Australia Bank slipping 0.7 per cent.

Engineering services provider WorleyParsons fell as much as 4.3 per cent after the stock was downgraded by Morningstar.

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For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.1 per cent to 5849.37 as it settled following the previous session's strong gain but held well above a two-week intraday low of 5,800.54 hit earlier in the week.

The main weight on the index was a sharp fall of 2.3 per cent for telecommunications heavyweight Spark, and a small fall for Fletcher Building.

Air New Zealand rose 0.6 per cent as it climbed back from a 3 1/2-month low plumbed on Thursday when it was sold off on speculation that a tie-up announced earlier in the week between American Airlines and Qantas may hit its earnings on direct transpacific routes from Auckland.

Genesis Energy rose 2.2 per cent, extending its recovery from a nine-month low as analysts raised their ratings on the energy retailer.

Other energy companies rose, with Meridian Energy and Mighty River Power up 0.7 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively.


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