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Australian shares post biggest falls in seven months; NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell sharply on Friday, recording their biggest percentage fall since November 2016, following Wall Street's slump overnight.

It was the Australian market's first quarterly loss in five quarters after a broad based sell-off.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.7 per cent, or 96.60 points lower, at 5,721.50. The benchmark ended 1.1 per cent higher on Thursday.

Wall Street fell sharply on Thursday, with the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials suffering their worst daily percentage drop in about six weeks, as a recent decline in technology shares deepened.

Financials ended the day 1.4 per cent lower. Despite the losses, the financial index rose 1.6 per cent this month, recording its fourth monthly gain in five months.

The "Big Four" lenders closed between one per cent and 1.5 per cent lower.

BT Investment Management Ltd was the second-biggest loser on the benchmark, ending down 7.7 per cent.

Materials stocks were among the biggest drag despite gains in commodity prices.

South32 Ltd slid 2.9 per cent while Newcrest Mining Ltd dropped 2.8 per cent.

Real-estate was another major drag on the index with Cromwell Property Group falling 3.1 per cent to its lowest close since May 19.

Among other stocks, Mineral Resources Ltd ended 8.5 per cent higher and Metcash Ltd advanced 2.1 per cent to be the top gainers on the benchmark. Fairfax Media Ltd had the worst loss, declining 8.3 per cent.

Australian shares are expected to creep up over the remainder of the year but remain short of the 6,000-point mark, a Reuters poll found.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended one per cent or 74.01 points lower to finish the session at 7,611.44. The benchmark rose 5.8 per cent this quarter recording a sixth quarterly gain in seven.

Telecom stocks led the broad-based losses, with Spark New Zealand Ltd shedding 3.2 per cent.