Australia shares end lower as banks slip, NZ in 6th winning week

(Updates to close)

July 21 (Reuters) – Australian shares ended the bumpy week
on a negative note on Friday, as banks eased after investors
booked profits while New Zealand’s stock market recorded its
sixth week of gains.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 38.65 points, or 0.7
percent, to 5,722.8 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose
0.5 percent on Thursday. For the week, the index was down 0.7
percent.

A gauge of financial stocks posted its second weekly
gain but ended about 0.8 percent lower while the ‘Big Four’
banks – Commonwealth Bank, Westpac Banking Corp
, ANZ Banking Group and National Australia Bank
Ltd – closed between 0.5 to 1.1 percent lower.

Financials had rallied as the banks, especially the Big
Four, declared they were comfortable with new capital rules
unveiled by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
(APRA) on Wednesday.

Global miner BHP Billiton was the biggest laggard
on the benchmark ending about 1.9 percent lower. Activist
shareholder Elliott Management voiced concerns over BHP’s
proposal to enter the over-supplied fertiliser market.

Index heavyweights Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals
Group dragged material stocks down along with BHP,
slipping 2.1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.58
points, or 0.02 percent to finish the session at 7,670.86. The
index finished the week up 0.3 percent, sealing its sixth week
of gains since mid-June.

The index was little changed as gains in health care and
utility stocks outweighed losses in the materials sector.

Fletcher Building was among the biggest percentage
decliners while Fisher and Mercury NZ Ltd led gainers.
(Reporting by Hanna Paul; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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