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Australia shares post best performance in 3 years; NZ ends 2016 well up
December 30, 2016 / 6:00 AM / a year ago

Australia shares post best performance in 3 years; NZ ends 2016 well up

(Updates to close)

Dec 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed lower on Friday, but ended having had their best quarter this year and their best yearly run since 2013.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.58 percent, or 33.27 points, at 5,665.8 on Friday, pulled down by poor performances in financial and basic material stocks.

The benchmark financial index fell 1.1 percent on Friday as U.S. and European bank shares eased on profit taking with the “Big Four” banks losing over a percent each.

On the year, the index gained 4.2 percent, as Australia and New Zealand Bank shares added 9.2 percent, while National Australia Bank shares were up 5.5 percent, both posting their best yearly performance since 2013.

However, shares in Australia’s biggest bank by market capitalisation, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, lost 3.7 percent this year, the biggest yearly loss in five years, while Westpac Banking shares lost nearly three percent, falling after four straight gaining years.

Though the metals and mining index lost 0.47 percent on the day, it saw its best yearly run since 2009.

Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto lost over a percent each on the day. On a yearly basis, BHP gained 40.7 percent, its best in nine years, while Rio posted its best since 2009, adding 34.2 percent.

The gold index closed the day 6.2 percent higher on the back of rising gold prices.

Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining climbed 5 percent and 10 percent respectively adding to their over 50 percent yearly gain. The gold index gained 54.2 percent this year, the most in 10 years.

Gold miner Resolute Mining was the best performer on the broader index on a year to date basis, gaining 420 percent.

The champion performers on the Australian main index though, were Whitehaven Coal and Fortescue Metals both gaining over 200 percent each.

Fortescue Metals saw its best performance since 2007, on the back of iron-ore gains, while Whitehaven Coal posted its best run in 10 years.

New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 index closed the session 0.16 percent lower, or 11.06 points, at 6,881.22, with the decline being led by financials and industrials. The benchmark gained 8.8 percent on the year.

Westpac Banking Corp lost 1.1 percent on the day and 5.2 percent annually, its steepest yearly fall since 2011.

Auckland International Airport Ltd ended the year down 4.58 percent, but gained 8.7 percent on the year. (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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