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Australia, NZ: Australia shares slide 1.6%, NZ resilient

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 - 10:57

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Wednesday as a renewed slide in oil prices took a heavy toll on the resources sector, but encouraging earnings from healthcare firms helped lift New Zealand stocks.

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index shed around 1.6 per cent, or 78.69 points, to 4,900.90 by 0157 GMT, stepping back further from a three-week peak of 5,035.60 set a day earlier.

Among the worst performers, engineering firm WorleyParsons slumped more than 10 per cent after reporting a big drop in profit and scrapping its interim dividend.

BHP Billiton declined 6.8 per cent, while fellow global miner Rio Tinto slid 5.3 per cent. Oil and energy producer Santos fell 4.5 per cent.

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Market voices on:

"Today's market movement is not surprising given what we saw in the US overnight and considering what's happening to oil prices," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne.

Oil prices extended sharp falls from the previous session after top exporter Saudi Arabia ruled out production cuts and industry data showed a further build in US crude stockpiles.

The major banks were not spared either, with all big four lenders down over 2 per cent.

In contrast, gains in New Zealand's healthcare sector helped push the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index up 0.84 per cent, or 51.61 points, to 6,227.28.

Healthcare firm Ebos Group rose 5 per cent after announcing its half-year net profit after tax rose 18.9 per cent.

Aged care and retirement village operator Metlifecare climbed 6.5 per cent as investors cheered a threefold surge in its half year net profit.

REUTERS

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