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Australian shares close higher but chalk up biggest weekly loss in 11 months

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed higher on Friday but registered their biggest losses in 11 months after a series of weak data and a new trade war front that has fanned fears of a global slowdown.

Drugmaker CSL kept the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index afloat for much of the session before a late boost from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA).

Shares closed 0.4 per cent up at 6,517.1 but have lost 3 per cent over the week in thin trade as investors awaited a US jobs report later in the day for further signals on the state of the world's largest economy and the potential for further cuts to US intyerest rates.

Poor US manufacturing and private jobs figures on Wednesday and Thursday had rattled Australian and global markets.

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CBA reversed early losses to end the session 0.3 per cent up, with its Big Four peers closing with declines between 0.3 per cent and 0.5 per cent.

The life insurance arm of CBA was charged with dozens of breaches of a law banning sales staff from cold-calling customers to sell financial products.

It capped a difficult week for banks after the latest interest rate cut and the potential for further easing to heap more pressure on their margins.

The financial index registered its biggest decline since October last year.

Yet CSL, one of Australia's biggest companies by market value, jumped by 3.2 per cent after Morgan Stanley upgraded the company.

Elsewhere, energy and mining stocks rose as oil and commodities prices edged higher.

Fortescue Metals Group gained 2.1 per cent while Australia's leading independent oil and gas explorer and producer Woodside Petroleum added 0.3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.7 per cent higher, up 71.61 points at 10,892.82.

Fonterra and Mercury NZ advanced by 3.3 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively. 

REUTERS