Australian shares ended the week lower on Friday, hurt by declines in the financial sector, while strength in the materials sector driven by overnight gains in gold and copper prices helped curtail some of the losses. The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.7 percent, or 41.44 points, weaker at 5,836.9 points, leaving the benchmark index flat for the week. Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Macquarie Group Ltd fell 0.5 percent and 1 percent respectively, dragging the financials index lower.
The tax on liabilities unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget caught banks, which had previously enjoyed the support of the ruling centre-right government, unawares and was strongly criticised by bank executives. “On the bank side of things, it continues to be dominated by the levy,” said Tony Farnham, economist at Patersons Securities.
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Nine of the 10 sectors in index ended Friday weaker, but the mining sector was a bright spot, thanks to stronger gold and copper prices. Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, as copper prices touched a one week-high on Thursday after funds cut bearish bets.
Among the gold miners, Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 2.4 percent after the bullion price rose on Thursday having been flat or lower for the previous eight sessions. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.5 percent, or 37.33 points to finish the session at 7,452.38. It gained 1.2 percent during the week.A2 Milk Ltd was the biggest percentage loser, slumping 6.8 percent. The dairy company had touched a record high in the earlier session.