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Australia: Shares fall, ANZ drags financials lower

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Tuesday with financial stocks pulled lower after Australia and New Zealand Bank earnings missed expectations and as investors awaited the central bank's policy decision.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.6 per cent, or 33.623 points, to 5,922.9 at 0259 GMT, snapping its longest gaining streak since July 2016. The benchmark had gained 0.6 per cent in the previous session.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell as much as 3 per cent, its worst day in six months, after its 23 per cent rise in first-half cash profit fell short of analysts'expectations.

The financial index lost as much as 1.4 per cent, also after seven sessions of gains, with the other "Big 4" banks losing between 1 per cent and 2.5 per cent.

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ANZ's miss on consensus was disappointing, given the significant rally banking stocks have enjoyed over the past two weeks on optimism ahead of the results, said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. Among other factors, the Reserve Bank of Australia is seen holding its cash rate at a record low of 1.5 per cent in its monthly policy meeting later in the day. "We are largely seeing some softening in banks and Donald Trump's comments on big banks didn't help too much," said Tony Cunningham from Cunningham Peterson Sharbanee Securities.

US President Trump's comments on plans to break up big banks as reported by Bloomberg Television on Monday had little effect on US stocks, which were boosted in their previous session by gains in Apple and other big tech stocks.

Gold stocks were among the biggest losers on the benchmark index, as the yellow metal dipped overnight before steadying, dragging the Australian gold index down 1.8 per cent.

Newscrest Mining fell 1.1 per cent, while Evolution Mining lost 4.2 per cent.

On the gaining side, Woolworth's rose as much as 2.5 per cent after reporting a surge in quarterly sales figures, pulling the consumer non-cyclicals sector up.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.4 per cent, or 29.5 points, at 7,413.89.

Losses in financials due to declines in New Zealand shares of ANZ Banking Group, of 2.1 per cent, were far outweighed by gains in industrial and utility sectors.

Air New Zealand gained 3.3 per cent in its fourth straight gaining session, while Meridian Energy climbed 1.4 per cent.

REUTERS

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