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Australian shares pulled lower by healthcare, energy; NZ falls

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed lower on Monday, dragged down by healthcare and energy stocks, although financials recovered slightly towards the end of trade.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5 per cent or 31.1 points to 5818.1 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose slightly on Friday.

Healthcare stocks fell about 2.2 per cent as investors factored in recent strength in the Australian dollar . Healthcare stocks do most of their business outside of Australia, and any strength in the domestic currency weighs on their turnover.

Hearing devices maker Cochlear ended about 3.8 per cent lower after a U.S. district court awarded $268.1 million in damages against the company in a patent infringement lawsuit. The stock led declines on the healthcare index.

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Energy stocks ended lower for a third straight session, as oil prices fell due to U.S. sanctions against Iran being softened by waivers for a number of major buyers.

Oil and gas explorers Beach Energy and Oil Search shed about 2.6 per cent and 1.3 per cent respectively, with Beach serving as the biggest intraday loser in the sector.

Index heavyweight BHP also ended about 1.2 per cent lower, tracking recent weakness in commodity prices.

On the other hand, financial stocks staged a late recovery and ended 0.2 per cent higher, as a decline in the country's largest bank was counterbalanced by gains in the other three.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group ended 1.1 per cent higher after it announced pay cuts of about 20 per cent for its top executives.

Westpac Banking Corp closed around 0.6 per cent higher despite its annual cash earnings missing expectations.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.6 per cent or 56.82 points to finish the session at 8778.78, as healthcare and consumer stocks weighed.

Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp ended about 2.5 per cent lower, while a2 Milk Company shed 5.1 per cent.

REUTERS