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Australian shares squeezed by Royal Commission findings; NZ down


[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped to their lowest close in nearly two weeks in a lightly traded session on Monday as financial stocks wilted under the scathing interim findings of a high-profile inquiry into the sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent, or 35.3 points to 6,172.3 at the close of trade.

In almost 60 days of public hearings, the Royal Commission inquiry heard evidence of bribery, fraud, fee-gouging and board-level deception across the industry, prompting many calls for prosecutions.

Calls for action came right from the top of the Australian government, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison calling on the country's financial regulator to prosecute bankers.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group led the losses among the 'Big Four', dropping 1.6 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia followed closely behind.

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"If the Royal Commission inhibits the way in which they can make money from the consumer, that will be viewed as a negative," said Dale Raynes, associate Director at CPS Capital.

However, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was wary of any action against the banks in the wake of the report, hoping that any measures taken do not hurt the economy or lead to tighter lending, he said in an interview.

Meanwhile, resources stocks ended slightly lower in light trade as China, a key market, is on a week-long holiday.

"The miners will probably drift... and will be trading probably on low volume with a lack of direction coming out of China," said Mr Raynes.

Rio Tinto edged 0.1 per cent lower, while BHP closed roughly flat.

Rio, alongside its joint venture partners, said it will invest about US$1.55 billion to sustain production capacity at two iron ore projects in Western Australia, while it is in talks to sell its controlling stake in Namibia's Rossing uranium mine to China National Nuclear Corporation, according to media reports.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent to 9,327.27.

Sky Network Television was the biggest per centage loser on the benchmark, followed by Westpac Banking and ANZ, feeling the heat from revelations across the Tasman Sea.


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