February 24, 2017 / 5:45 AM / 6 months ago

Australia shares end lower as iron ore, copper prices slide; NZ down

(Updates to close)

Feb 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished lower on Friday, as sliding iron ore and copper prices dragged down the materials sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 0.8 percent, or 45.66 points, at 5,739 by the close of trade. The benchmark was off 0.4 percent on Thursday.

China's iron ore futures slid nearly 5 percent and were headed for a weekly loss, coming off a rapid rally underpinned by expectations that strong infrastructure spending would spur steel demand in the world's top consumer.

Copper prices also tumbled as worries about demand in China resurfaced after the country's housing minister suggested moves were afoot to stabilise the property market, while a firm dollar reinforced negative sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 materials index fell for a third straight session to more than a six-week low.

BHP Billiton, the world's largest miner by market capitalisation, slumped to over a seven-week low, its third successive day in the red.

Global miners Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd dropped 4.2 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Financial stocks also took a beating, weighed down by the "Big 4" banks that lost 0.2 to 0.7 percent.

The worst performer on the main index was business management software maker Myob Group Ltd, diving 6.8 percent to an eight-month intraday low on a selldown by Bain Capital.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 0.4 percent, or 30.94 points lower, to finish the session at 7,058.58.

The index fell to its lowest in three weeks, with industrials, utilities and healthcare stocks leading the losses.

Auckland International Airport Ltd and Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp slipped 1.7 percent, while Mercury NZ Ltd fell 2.6 percent.

Retail company Warehouse Group Ltd, the biggest loser on the index, fell 2.6 percent to a three-week intraday low. (Reporting by Christina Martin; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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