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Australian shares weighed by materials and oil stocks; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished lower on Friday as oil price weakness dragged on energy stocks and as the outlook for earnings from James Hardie Industries, the world's top fibre cement producer, disappointed investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.3 per cent but managed to end the week 0.7 per cent higher, its best week in five. The benchmark climbed 0.5 per cent on Thursday.

ASX-listed shares in US-reliant James Hardie Industries PLC dropped 6.6 per cent on Friday, with the midpoint of the firm's guidance range for its fiscal 2019 adjusted operating profit coming below the average of analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"With rising (US) interest rates, it is going to get harder for them going forward and so the market is reading into that," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

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Meanwhile, Australia's energy index lost 1.8 per cent on Friday, with crude prices pressured by worries over demand fuelled by China-US trade dispute concerns.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures were trading at US$71.91 per barrel at 0607 GMT, down 0.22 per cent from their last close.

Beach Energy Ltd, an oil and gas explorer and producer, dropped 3.5 per cent and led losses on the energy benchmark.

Australia's biggest power producer AGL Energy fell 2.3 per cent to extend Thursday's 4.1 per cent loss, hit after it forecast minimal profit growth in fiscal 2019.

Financial stocks helped temper losses on the main index for much of the session but gave up most gains made earlier in the day to close up 0.1 per cent.

Global miner Rio Tinto, whose shares traded ex-dividend on Thursday, fell 0.8 per cent, worse than rival BHP's 0.7 per cent loss.

In New Zealand, the local benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended up 0.8 per cent, driven by gains in consumer staples and health care stocks.

However, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited cut its earnings guidance and slightly lowered its forecast milk payout price, sending the stock of the world's largest dairy exporter down 2.4 per cent.

REUTERS

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