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Australian shares end lower as materials, financials falter; a2 Milk drags NZ


[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged down on Monday, as lower commodities prices hit materials stocks while financials slipped on fresh revelations of wrongdoing in a high-profile probe into the sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.1 per cent or 7.70 points to 6,186.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.4 per cent on Friday.

Mining stocks led a selloff in the materials sector as benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange slipped 1 per cent.

Global miner Rio Tinto Ltd declined about 1.2 per cent and was among the biggest drags on the benchmark, while South32 Ltd fell 1.3 per cent.

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Banks and insurers were also in the red, hurt by damaging testimony of a quasi-judicial inquiry, which has already exposed widespread wrongdoing in the financial sector.

Some of the largest insurers in Australia, including the local units of multinationals, may have broken laws - some of which carry criminal penalties - the inquiry heard last week.

Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 0.5 per cent to a one-week low, while Suncorp Group Ltd slipped 0.6 per cent.

The benchmark was also weighed by a 1.4 per cent fall in index heavyweight CSL Ltd. The drugmaker has rallied about 44 per cent since the beginning of the year but has been falling lately on profit taking.

Australia-listed shares of a2 Milk Company Ltd slumped 3.8 per cent to a two-week low, after the dairy firm's chief executive, Jayne Hrdlicka, sold her entire stake in the company, a disclosure notice issued by the Australian and New Zealand stock exchanges showed.

In New Zealand, the S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4 per cent or 38.46 points to finish at 9,337.51.

The benchmark was dragged mainly by a2 Milk which fell 5.4 per cent to a two-week low.