December 29, 2017 / 6:19 AM / 3 months ago

Australia, NZ shares end 2017 with solid annual gains

(Updates to close)

Dec 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished lower on Friday, dragged by financials, but posting their best annual performance since 2013 on the last trading day of the year.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent, or 23.0 points, to 6,065.1 at the close of trade. The benchmark added 0.3 percent on Thursday and rose 7.1 percent this year, registering two consecutive years of gains.

Banks accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark, with the Australian financial index posting an annual decline for the first time since 2011. Australia’s banks have been troubled by instances of money laundering and rate-rigging over the course of 2017.

Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.6 percent, dragging the index, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 0.2 percent.

The metals and mining index capped a strong year by gaining 0.2 percent to finish near a five-year high on Friday, supported by higher iron ore and copper prices. The index climbed 22.3 percent in 2017.

Global miner BHP Billiton gained 0.2 percent, rising to its highest close since May 2015, while its peer Rio Tinto Ltd ticked up 1.2 percent.

Australian-listed shares of diary firm a2 Milk Company Ltd were the best performers on the benchmark as they gained 261.3 percent annually. Conversely, Retail Food Group Ltd’s shares were the worst performers on the benchmark as they declined 64.8 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, New Zealand stocks dipped on the last trading of the day of the year, led by industrials and consumer staples, but still posted solid gains 2017, its best year since 2012, marked by multiple record highs.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 percent or 10.45 points to finish the session at 8,398.080. However, the benchmark gained 22 percent this year and extended its annual winning streak to a sixth consecutive year.

Auckland International Airport Ltd fell 1.3 percent to its lowest since Dec. 5 and was the biggest drag on the benchmark.

New Zealand-listed shares of a2 Milk Company Ltd ended a stellar year in which it gained 278.9 percent down 0.7 percent. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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