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Australian shares end down, banks rattled by ANZ; NZ falls

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[BENGALURU]  Australian shares ended lower on Friday as the banking sector was shaken by news ANZ is facing criminal charges, while sentiment was further hurt by a US move to impose trade tariffs against some of its key trading partners.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.4 per cent lower, dropping 21.5 points to 5,990.4.

The index marked its third week in the red as trade tariffs and bank woes on Friday added to a selloff following Italy's political turmoil earlier in the week.

The banking index lost 0.9 per cent after the Australian competition watchdog said federal prosecutors would charge Australia and New Zealand Banking over cartel arrangements in a US$2.3 billion share issue.

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The latest development compounds a publicity nightmare for the country's biggest financial firms as they grapple with daily allegations of wrongdoing under a public inquiry, which is scheduled to run to the end of the year.

ANZ dropped 1.5 per cent while National Australia Bank lost 0.6 per cent to close at its lowest in more than one-and-a-half years. Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, broader markets were fragile on heightened worries about a global trade war after Canada, Mexico and the European Union swiftly responded with retaliatory tariffs to US import tariffs on steel and aluminium.

Energy stocks added to the fall as oil prices weakened on oversupply concerns.

Origin Energy Ltd closed at its lowest in one month, down 1.6 per cent.

However, the mining index was supported by strength in metal and iron ore prices, though global miner Rio Tinto , whose largest concentration of aluminium smelters is in Canada, fell 0.6 per cent.

Some investors took shelter in defensive stocks such as healthcare, which ended 0.6 per cent higher after having touched a record during the session.

Australian pharmaceutical heavyweights CSL Ltd and Cochlear Ltd gained 0.2 per cent and 3.7 per cent, respectively, with the latter closing at a record.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.3 per cent or 22.63 points to 8,636.16. The index ended the week slightly lower, its third straight weekly loss.

Consumer staples stocks dented the index the most after dairy products maker Synlait Milk raised its base forecast milk price for the 2017-18 season, signalling higher raw material costs.

Synlait dropped 2.6 per cent while a2 Milk Company, which has a stake in the former, lost 3.9 per cent and was the top drag on the index.

REUTERS

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