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Australian shares drop as investors await direction; NZ declines 0.8%

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Monday, as investors waited for direction from corporate earnings as well as from meetings this week for major central banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.4 per cent lower at 6,278.4. On Friday, the benchmark climbed 0.9 per cent and hit a 10-year closing high.

There was a "cautious start to the week with many investors locking down some strong gains ahead of key events that could change the outlook," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Among Monday's biggest drags was BHP, which fell 0.6 per cent on the high likelihood of a labour strike at its Escondida mine in Chile.

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After meetings last week, workers at the world's largest copper mine rejected the company's final contract offer and agreed to vote on whether to strike.

Investors shrugged off concerns about a potential strike, and were preparing to focus on a raft of coming economic reports that may indicate slowing growth in top metals consumer China.

Global miner Rio Tinto, which dropped 1.1 per cent, will kick off Australian corporate earnings this Wednesday, reporting its January-June results.

General weakness in financial stocks weighed on the main board, with the sector index down 0.4 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Australia and New Zealand Banking led the losses, down 0.6 and 0.5 per cent respectively.

In contrast, wealth manager AMP closed over 4 per cent higher, regaining much of its losses from Friday when it flagged the financial impact from the Royal Commission inquiry into financial sector misconduct.

Shares of Telstra, which named Robyn Denholm as its chief financial officer, closed nearly 2 per cent higher.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.8 per cent, or 74.78 points to finish the session at 8,921.38.

Index heavyweight Auckland Airport and a2 Milk Company were the biggest drags, falling 2.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent.

REUTERS