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Australian shares end lower on banks and miners; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares eased marginally on Wednesday, unable to followthrough on the previous day's recovery as financials took another hit and mining stocks slumped on the back of falling commodities prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent or 3.80 points to 6,175.90 at the close of trade, having risen 0.6 per cent in the previous session. The index has now fallen for nine of the last 10 sessions.

Banks and insurers were battered by the latest revelations from a high profile months-long inquiry of widespread misconduct in the industry. The inquiry heard on Wednesday that insurers use high-pressure tactics to prevent customers from cancelling their policies and even hang up on them when they try to do so.

A weaker Australian dollar added to their woes, said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

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Index heavyweight Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd slipped 0.7 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.6 per cent.

Insurance majors Suncorp Group Ltd and QBE Insurance Group Ltd were trading 1.7 per cent and 0.4 per cent lower, respectively.

A sell-off in Chinese iron ore futures led to a weakness in mining stocks.

BHP, the world's biggest miner, was eased 0.3 per cent, while Fortescue Metals Group Ltd fell 3 per cent to a more than two-year low.

However, higher oil prices boosted demand for local energy stocks, braking the benchmark's slide.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd firmed 1.6 per cent, while Santos Ltd rose 2.7 per cent to its highest since Aug 23.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dipped 0.3 per cent or 30 points to finish the session at 9,195.57.

Teleco Spark New Zealand Ltd fell 1.1 per cent and was the biggest drag on the main index, while casino operator Skycity Entertainment Group Ltd dipped 2.4 per cent.