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Australia, NZ: Shares under pressure, tracking global weakness

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Friday, pushing the market into the red for the week, reflecting a broad selloff across global equities on heightened risk aversion.

Uncertainty about a US interest rate decision next week and Britain's referendum on whether to remain in the European Union in the following week were keeping markets on edge.

In Australia, investors were taking no chances ahead of key Chinese data due on Monday, when the market will be shut for a public holiday.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed one per cent, or 52.1 points, to 5,309.8 by 0320 GMT. The benchmark was down 0.2 per cent so far in the week.

"We expected a bit of weakness because there's a few macro things coming up," said Andrew Ward, senior portfolio manager at Aurora Funds Management.

Index heavyweights all fell. Global miner BHP Billiton shed 3.9 per cent, while Rio Tinto lost 2.9 per cent. The big four banks were all down by more than one per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was a shade lower at 6,970.5, but was still down 0.8 per cent on the week.

Sky Network Television traded down 3.8 per cent, reversing some of Thursday's 17 per cent rally when Vodafone PLC said it was merging its New Zealand unit with the country's biggest pay-TV firm, Sky.

Bucking the negative trend, Air New Zealand rose 3.7 per cent after it said it has agreed to sell a 19.98 per cent stake in Virgin Australia Holdings Limited to China's Nanshan Group.

Virgin shares jumped 4.5 per cent.