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Australia shares trim losses as materials gain; NZ at 2-week high


[BENGALURU] Australian shares recouped some of their losses on Thursday to end the week in the black as a rally in top material firms partially offset falls in financials.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed lower 0.1 per cent or 4.7 points at 6,050, edging away from intraday losses of as much as 0.4 per cent.

The Sydney market stuttered early on after an uninspiring session on Wall Street overnight, which was pressured by worries of the Trump administration's trade protectionist stance.

The benchmark, which rose 0.3 per cent on Wednesday, ended an abbreviated week 0.7 per cent higher. Australian markets will be closed on Friday for a public holiday.

Large-capped lenders National Australia Bank Ltd and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd finished the session 0.6 per cent and 0.5 per cent lower, respectively.

Toll road developer Transurban Group fell 1.1 per cent, while steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel Ltd slipped 2.1 per cent to a five-week low.

Taking the sting out of the broad market, global miner BHP Billiton - which has a sizable exposure to oil - rose 0.6 per cent to end at its highest in over a week.

Brent oil prices hit US$71 per barrel for the first time since 2014 as the dollar slumped to a three-year low and crude inventories in the United States fell for a 10th straight week.

The weaker dollar pushed gold prices to their strongest since August 2016, lifting Newcrest Mining Ltd 2.2 per cent and the gold index past a one-week top.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.55 per cent or 45.69 points to finish the session at 8,369.78 - its best close since Jan. 9.

Equity investors were likely encouraged by consumer prices rising at a slower-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter, meaning the central bank will be in no hurry to raise interest rates.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd pushed higher to fresh records, up 2.4 per cent, while telco Spark New Zealand Ltd rose 1.7 per cent.


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