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Australia: Stocks end the day lower

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares reversed course to finish marginally lower on Thursday as healthcare stocks followed their US peers lower after US President-elect Donald Trump's comments on the sector, offseting gains in basic materials and energy shares.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent, or 4.58 points, to 5,766.9 at the close of trade. The benchmark, which was up earlier in the day, gained 0.2 per cent in the previous session.

Healthcare stocks were hard hit, taking their cue from US peers after Trump said pharmaceutical companies were "getting away with murder" by charging high prices.

Worst hit were sector giant CSL Ltd, which lost 2.8 per cent, and Mayne Pharma, down 4 per cent.

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Both companies have significant US exposure.

Keeping the market reasonably steady, basic materials and energy shares remained resilient thanks to a weaker dollar after Mr Trump's conference, which failed to offer details on his promises to boost fiscal spending and cut taxes.

Mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Fortescue Metals gained between 1 per cent and 1.3 per cent.

Rio Tinto and Fortescue also finished higher for a third straight session, while oil and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Santos each added around 1 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 6 points lower at 7,063.59 as losses in telcos weighed on energy sector gains.

Telephone services firm Spark New Zealand, down 3.4 per cent, was the benchmark's biggest loser.

Electricity generator Infratil and New Zealand Refining Co, up 1.8 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively, were the index's top two gainers.