January 22, 2018 / 6:02 AM / 4 months ago

Australia shares close at 6-week low as banks drag; NZ rises

* Australian shares drop below 6,000 for first time in 2018, dragged by banks

* CBA slips 1.2 pct, National Australia Bank at lowest in over 13 months

* NZ shares end 0.5 pct higher (Updates to close)

Jan 22 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped below the 6,000 level for the first time this year on Monday, with banking stocks accounting for most of the losses.

Shares on the local benchmark took cues from U.S. stock index futures, which dipped slightly on the second day of a U.S. government shutdown.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell for a fifth straight session, settling at 5,991.9, its weakest close since Dec. 7. The benchmark shed 0.2 percent on Friday.

Financial stocks weighed the most on the index, with the “Big Four” banks losing in a range of 0.6 percent to 1.2 percent. The financial index saw its worst finish since October 2017.

National Australia Bank Ltd lost 0.6 percent and closed at its lowest since December 2016, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped 1.2 percent to a near seven-week low.

Miner South32 Ltd and steel manufacturer BlueScope Steel Ltd pulled the material sector into the red, falling 2.6 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

The metals and mining index, which saw a positive start to the session, slid 0.2 percent to a near three-week trough. The index has finished lower for five consecutive sessions.

Property website Domain Holdings Australia Ltd posted the sharpest percentage drop on the index, plunging 17.2 percent to a record low after its chief executive quit two months after the Fairfax Media spinoff listed on the Australian exchange.

Meanwhile, retail giant Woolworths Ltd and winery Treasury Wine Estates logged gains of 1.1 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

CSL Ltd also contributed to the gains on the index, rising 1 percent to its best level since December 1.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 percent or 45.4 points to 8,335.36, its best close in nearly two weeks.

Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd was the top boost to the index, climbing 3.5 percent to a record close in its sixth straight session in the black.

Ryman Healthcare Ltd gained 3.9 percent, marking its sharpest intraday percentage gain in eight weeks. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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