June 6, 2017 / 6:53 AM / 5 months ago

Australia shares close at weakest since February; NZ turns lower

(Updates to close)

June 6 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Tuesday with financial and material stocks leading the decline, while the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged, as widely expected, at its June policy review.

The S&P/ASX 200 index ended 1.52 percent, or 87.367 points, lower at 5,667.5, its lowest close since Feb. 9.

Shares in the ‘Big 4’ banks fell between 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent, weighed down by the potential impact on profits from a planned bank levy.

The Reserve Bank of Australia left its cash rate unchanged at 1.5 percent and policy makers signalled a steady outlook for much of the year ahead.

The decline on the benchmark was broad-based.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals shed between 0.8 percent and 1.4 percent as iron ore prices weakened, and lower oil prices added to BHP’s woes.

Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 1.1 percent and 2 percent respectively.

Gold stocks, however, rose, with Newcrest Mining up 0.9 percent.

The utility sector suffered some profit taking. AGL Energy and Origin Energy lost 4 percent and 4.4 percent respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended flat, down 0.07 percent, or 5 points, to finish the session at 7,494.97.

The finance sector showed weakness however, with New Zealand shares of Westpac Banking and ANZ Banking Group falling nearly 3 percent.

Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore

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