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Australia: Shares fall as global factors weigh on key sectors


[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Monday as weakness on Wall St, concerns about slowing growth in key export market China and declining commodities prices weighed on stocks.

Banks and resources led the Australian market lower, but almost every sector was trading in negative territory with thin volumes exaggerating declines ahead of the Christmas holiday season.

By 0119 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was down 27.0 points or 0.5 per cent at 5,079.7. The benchmark has lost 6.1 per cent this year, heading for its worst annual result since 2011.

"The forces of commodities prices, Chinese weakness, along with the bank sector ... these are the big sectors and they've had really poor years," said Heuristic Investment Systems co-founder Damien Hennessy. "That has meant that all the other sectors of the equity market have had to strengthen up."

Banks posted the biggest sector decline as investors questioned their ability to maintain a record run of profit growth in a cooling housing market and after being forced to raise billions of dollars to comply with tough new capital requirements.

The so-called "Big Four" banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank - all fell 0.5 per cent.

Miners also fell as the price of iron ore held near multi-year lows. Rio Tinto was down 0.6 per cent and BHP Billiton was flat, while BHP spin-off South32 was off by 1 per cent.

Energy stocks were mixed, with Woodside Petroleum up 1 per cent, oil refiner-retailer Caltex down 0.8 per cent and Oil Search trading steady.

Casino operator Crown Resorts rose 4 per cent after majority owner James Packer quit the board a week after local media reported he was considering joining with a financier to take it private.

Services company Broadspectrum firmed 3 per cent after upgrading its earnings guidance.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was trading down 0.1 per cent at 6,101,98 after steep falls on Wall Street.

A2 Milk continued a strong run after its upbeat guidance last week, adding 2.1 per cent. The stock is up around 147 per cent this year.

Argosy Property added 0.4 per cent after saying it will sell an industrial property in Auckland.

The biggest losers included Nuplex, down 1.3 per cent, and Summerset, down 1.2 per cent.