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Financials drag Australia shares lower; NZ up

[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished lower for a second straight session on Wednesday as financial stocks fell on growing expectations that the US Federal Reserve will raise rates in December.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 per cent, or 6.683 points, to 5,664.3 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Tuesday.

Fed chair Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the bank needs to continue gradual rate hikes and it would be imprudent to leave rates on hold until inflation reached its 2 per cent target.

Financials and telecoms led the losses.

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Three of the "Big Four" banks slipped between 0.1 to 0.5 per cent. Westpac Banking Corp rose marginally at 0.1 per cent.

Telstra Corp Ltd slumped to its lowest in over five years and was among the biggest losers on the index, down as much as 2.6 per cent.

The biggest loser, however, was Nine Entertainment Co Holdings Ltd, dropping 4.7 per cent to a three-week intraday low. "The market is being driven down by the lack of any positive news, and more generally there is a lack of 'newsfull' stock. But that isn't surprising when you have come through a reporting cycle - the companies are all reported out," said Tony Farnham, an economist at Patersons Securities.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose for a fourth straight session, adding 0.3 per cent, or 26.6 points to finish at 7,913.78, a record closing high.

The index has so far brushed off political uncertainty after an inconclusive election last week. Negotiations to form a coalition government are expected to take weeks.

REUTERS