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Australian, NZ shares dragged down by weak Chinese GDP data

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Friday as China posted its weakest economic growth since the global financial crisis, though the market was off its morning lows as Beijing pledged more policy support to mitigate risks from a trade row with the United States.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.05 per cent to 5,939.5, recouping most of the early losses. The benchmark is set to gain 0.7 per cent for the week, snapping two straight weeks in the red.

China's economy grew 6.5 per cent in the third quarter from a year earlier, missing expectations and coming in slower than 6.7 per cent in the second quarter for its weakest quarterly performance since early 2009.

Chinese policymakers were quick to reassure markets, pledging more steps to support growth in the world's second biggest economy - Australia's largest trading partner and a key source of its massive export earnings.

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The metals and mining index dropped 0.2 per cent, with its top constituent BHP closed lower for a third straight day, down 0.3 per cent.

Metal prices were down on concerns slowing growth from resource hungry China will likely dampen demand.

South32 fell 2.3 per cent to its lowest level in more than a month, while Fortescue Metals Group declined 2.3 per cent as well.

Financial stocks, which have been pummelled by revelations in a high-profile inquiry of widespread misconduct in the sector, closed higher. The sector also added over 1 per cent this week to end a three week slide.

National Australia Bank said about 300 staff have been fired or left the company after internal investigations into wrongdoings, the company's Chief Executive Officer said.

Australia's number four lender closed 0.3 per cent lower.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid 1.2 per cent or 108.33 points to finish the session at 8,802.26.

Broad weakness among heavyweight stocks, such as a2 Milk Company and Air New Zealand, which closed down 1 per cent and 1.3 per cent, respectively, weighed on the market.

REUTERS