September 26, 2017 / 6:38 AM / 10 months ago

Australia shares end lower, hit by weak materials; NZ at record closing high

(Updates to close)

Sept 26 (Reuters) - Australian shares finished lower on Tuesday, snapping two straight sessions of gains, hurt by weakness on Wall Street and falling material stocks amid lower commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.22 percent, or 12.73 points to 5,671 at the close of trade.

The day started on a cautious note after U.S. stocks slipped overnight, led by a selloff in technology shares and the latest exchange of inflammatory remarks between North Korea and Washington.

Financials, materials and consumer discretionary stocks were the biggest drags on the index.

The financial index slipped 0.4 percent. Among the “Big Four” banks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ fell 0.9 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, while Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd traded flat.

Mining stocks slipped 0.5 percent to almost a five-week low, hurt by a sharp decline in coking coal and iron ore prices.

Coking coal was down more than 5 percent as some Chinese factories reopened after recent environmental inspections, adding to glut worries, while iron ore prices edged lower as the market continued to worry about waning restocking demand at mills.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto dropped 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent, both hitting an intraday low of over a month.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd lost 2 percent, closing at its weakest since July 24.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 percent, or 17.41 points, to finish at a record-closing high of at 7,887.18.

Consumer staples and information technology stocks led the gains, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd rising to a fresh record high and software company Xero Ltd jumping 1.1 percent. Both stocks were among the top gainers on the index. (Reporting By Christina Martin in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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