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Aussie shares end lower but see best month of 2017; NZ at record high
October 31, 2017 / 6:26 AM / 21 days ago

Aussie shares end lower but see best month of 2017; NZ at record high

(Updates to close)

Oct 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares relinquished early gains to end lower on Tuesday, as materials stocks took a slowdown in China’s manufacturing sector as a sign of cooling demand in the world’s second-largest economy.

China, which is among the largest markets for raw materials from Australia, saw factory activity cool more than expected in October in the face of a weakening property market and tighter pollution rules that are forcing many steels mills, smelters and factories to curtail output over the winter.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.17 percent or 10.08 points to 5,909.00 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.27 percent on Monday.

The index, however, gained about 4 percent in October, its best month in 2017 and is hovering near six-month highs.

Financials stocks also dipped in line with their peers in the United States, with the Australian financial index ending 0.58 percent lower.

Wall Street pulled back from record-high territory on Monday as investors assessed President Donald Trump’s plan for corporate tax cuts.

The ‘Big Four’ banks in Australia all ended lower, with Westpac Banking Corp serving as the biggest drag on the financial index.

The Australian corporate regulator accused Westpac of playing a leading role in the widespread manipulation of an important financial trading rate as it took the country’s No. 2 lender to court on Tuesday.

On the other hand, consumer staples stocks ranked among the gainers on the benchmark index, with wholesaler Metcash Ltd ending about 1.5 percent higher.

Energy stocks were also stronger, with Woodside Petroleum closing higher after agreeing to sell up to 12 LNG cargoes to German utility RWE between 2018 and 2020.

Meanwhile, New Zealand shares crawled to a record high, as gains in utilities and energy stocks slightly trounced lagging consumer staples and healthcare stocks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.03 percent or 2.36 points to finish the session at 8,146.34, its best close on record.

The New Zealand benchmark rose about 2.7 percent in October, also posting its best month in 2017.

Energy retailer Contact Energy Ltd ended at a more than 2-1/2-year high, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd closed 1.6 percent lower.

Elsewhere, property shares were mixed following new restrictions imposed on the sector.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday a ban on foreigners buying existing homes would begin in early 2018, but the restrictions would not apply to Australians.

Goodman Property Trust ended at a 3-week low, while Precinct Properties New Zealand Ltd ended 1.3 percent higher. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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