[SYDNEY] Sydney stocks fell slightly on Monday as Chinese manufacturing activity reinforced concerns of cooling growth in Australia's key export market, while a surprise slump in domestic building approvals also hurt sentiment. "(China) released some data on Saturday, the official figures, which disappointed," said Tristan K'Nell, head of trading at Quay Equities, referring to China's Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) which grew more slowly in October than the previous month.
Another closely watched benchmark of Chinese economic health, the final HSBC/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers'Index (PMI) edged up in October but still showed underlyting weakness.
Meanwhile, a weaker than expected quarterly sales result from grocery store giant Woolworths Ltd triggered a selloff in the stock, down 4.5 per cent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 0.3 per cent or 16.2 points to 5510.4, pulling back a little after ending the week with a near 1 percent rally on an unexpected move by the Bank of Japan to ease policy further in the face of a tottering economy and low inflation. "Building approvals probably had more of an impact on the market," Quay Equities' K'Nell said, after data showed Australian building approvals tumbled 11 percent in September on-year.
The resources sector struggled early on, with gold major Newcrest Mining Ltd lower sliding 8 per cent after precious metal prices hit their lowest level since 2010.
The gold price slide was triggered by the BOJ's stimulus jolt, which made commodities priced in US dollars more expensive as the yen hit the skids.
Other miners also fell. Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Billiton each gave up 0.8 per cent.
Westpac Banking Corp. was 0.2 per cent lower at A$34.73 after meeting expectations with an 8 per cent jump in annual cash profit, though analysts noted costs grew faster than revenue.
Elsewhere, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was up 0.3 per cent and National Australia Bank Ltd added 0.1 per cent.
New Zealand's NZX 50 index was up 0.5 percent or 26.67 points at 5414.5.