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March 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Monday, led by financials, with investors cautious ahead of a U.S. central bank policy meeting expected to deliver a rate hike later this week.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 18.3 points or 0.32 percent to 5,757.3 at the close of trade.
The domestic financials index snapped five sessions of gains to close down 0.3 percent. Westpac Banking Corp was flat, while the other three of the ‘Big four’ banks slipped.
Oil and gas company Woodside Petroleum fell 1.3 percent, while Oil Search stumbled to its lowest in 3-1/2 months, tracking losses in oil prices.
Oil dropped to its lowest in three months on Monday despite OPEC efforts to curb crude output, dragged down as U.S. drillers kept adding rigs.
BHP Billiton, which fell as much as 1.14 percent at one point, ended flat after Shanghai steel prices rose nearly 3 percent on Monday.
Rio Tinto, having slipped to its lowest in three months, recouped losses to close 0.3 percent higher.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.24 percent or 17.2 points to finish the session at 7,194.79, led by the telecom sector.
Telcommunications service provider Spark New Zealand finished up 2 percent, extending gains from Friday.
Fisher and Paykel Healthcare gained 2.3 percent. (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)