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Australia: Shares up on materials, CBA woes hurt financials; NZ flat

[SYDNEY] Australian shares were supported by gains for the materials sector, but Friday's focus fell squarely on Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which tumbled as the beleaguered bank tried to fend off more bad news linked to alleged breaches of money laundering rules.

CBA confirmed on Friday that its own internal reporting had flagged shortcomings in its monitoring of offshore transactions as early as February, well before the nation's biggest lender publicly disclosed alleged illicit transfers.

"They're just really saying that they're going through the processes at this particular point in time, but something like that coming through will be received negatively by the market, and that was reflected in the share price today," said Tony Farnham, an economist at Patersons Securities.

CBA shares slumped 1 per cent with the financial index flat after falling as much as 0.7 per cent.

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The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.2 per cent higher, or 9.578 points, to 5724.1 at 0229 GMT, aided by gains for materials and helthcare stocks.

Besides the financial sector, a fall in real estate stocks on the back of tepid house price data also dragged on the benchmark index. Goodman Group Pty Ltd and GPT Group slid as much as 1.4 per cent each.

Home prices in the country's major cities rose only marginally in August with prices in Sydney being dead flat, after jumping 1.4 per cent the month before.

In the healthcare sector, biotherapeutics company CSL Ltd jumped nearly two percent on track to end at a one month high.

Shares of Newcrest Mining Ltd were on track to reach a four month high gaining as much as 2.4 per cent while Independence Group NL climbed 5.04 per cent.

Those gains were supported by robust gold prices, which held steady near 9-1/2 month highs touched earlier this week and were reflected in the gold index rising to its highest level in four months.

Copper miner OZ Minerals Ltd gained 2.4 per cent underpinned by copper prices extending gains after they touched three year high on Thursday.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat on Friday.

Gains in health care and consumer staples were offset by losses in industrial.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp. and A2 Milk rose as much as 1.9 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively, while Auckland International Airport Ltd fell as much as 1.7 per cent.