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Australia shares drift down ahead of Fed, BOJ meetings; NZ climbs

39823921 - 12_09_2016 - AUSTRALIA MARKETS AND EXCHANGES ASX.jpg

[BENGALURU] Australian shares nudged lower on Tuesday, pulled down by financial and telecom stocks, as investors anxiously awaited outcomes from the Bank of Japan and US Federal Reserve policy meetings that conclude on Wednesday.

The consensus is that the Fed will leave interest rates unchanged at the end of its two-day meeting, with investors focusing on the statement as well as Chair Janet Yellen's speech for clues on the timing of the central bank's next interest rate hike.

The Australian Securities Exchange opened without incident on Tuesday after technical faults caused extensive disruptions on Monday.

Financial and telecom stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index which fell 0.2 per cent or 12.2 points to 5,283 by 0312 GMT.

Conflicting reports on what the Bank of Japan (BOJ) might do at its policy meeting stoked market uncertainty. Speculation is rife that the BOJ will change tack in favour of a policy mix that would add stimulus while protecting banks from problems generated by negative interest rates on deposits.

Locally, Australia's central bank has hinted at a stable outlook for interest rates having already cut twice this year.

TPG Telecom was the biggest percentage loser on the benchmark, falling as much as 23.1 per cent to hit its lowest in more than eight months.

Energy stocks slipped as oil prices fell after Venezuela said the crude oil market was oversupplied. Woodside Petroleum fell as much as 1.9 per cent to its lowest since Aug 4.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd reversed yesterday's gains to slide 1.7 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was firmer for a third straight session, rising 0.3 per cent or 22.7 points to 7,300.82.

Industrials, utilities and telecom stocks pushed the index higher.

New Zealand Refining Company led the gains on the benchmark, rising more than 3 per cent.

Power generator Meridian Energy Ltd advanced more than 2 per cent while Genesis Energy gained 1.8 per cent.