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Australia: Shares fall on weak oil, ore prices

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Australian shares fell on Monday as investors looked past upbeat domestic employment data and sold down resource sectors following continued weakness in the prices of oil and iron ore.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Monday as investors looked past upbeat domestic employment data and sold down resource sectors following continued weakness in the prices of oil and iron ore.

Weak US jobs data and a negative lead from offshore equities markets also weighed down the bourse with most major sectors declining by mid-session. "Everyone is sitting on the sidelines," said Quay Equities head of trading Tristan K'Nell, noting a slight uptick when data showed Australian job advertisements rose for a seventh straight month in December, a sign of increased demand for labour. "There's not a lot of real incentive for people to put their money to work." By 0141 GMT the S&P/ASX 200 index was down 33.6 points or 0.6 per cent to 5,432.0.

Energy majors posted the biggest losses, with oil producer Santos down 3.3 per cent and Origin Energy off by 1.7 per cent after oil spot prices ended the week diving to a multi-year low.

Woodside Petroleum dipped slightly less, down 1.4 per cent, after saying it formed a partnership to explore India's liquefied natural gas prospects.

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Iron ore miners also fell following a slide in the ore's spot price, led by Fortsecue Metals Group, down nearly 3 per cent. BHP Billiton dropped 1.8 per cent and Rio Tinto slid 1.3 per cent.

The exception among resources concerns were gold producers, with Newcrest Mining jumping 2.7 per cent as defensive buying pushed the precious metal's spot price higher.

Banks also fell less than the broader index, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 0.2 per cent, National Australia Bank down 0.3 per cent and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group down 0.1 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index rose 13.0 points or 0.2 per cent to 5,597.89, as the gains in retirement home operator Summerset to a four-month high helped to nudge the bourse back towards a lifetime high of 5,602.66 hit last week.

Summerset jumped 3.5 per cent to NZ$2.97 (US$2), its strongest since September, after a near 50 per cent rise in the company's fourth quarter sales raised optimism about its earnings outlook.

Gains in Summerset lifted others in the fast-growing retirement services sector, with Metlifecare rising 1.7 per cent to a two-week high of NZ$4.74.

Optimism in the overall index boosted blue-chip shares, with energy retailer Meridian Energy rising 2.6 per cent to NZ$1.80, approaching a lifetime high of NZ$1.81.

Construction materials manufacturer Fletcher Building and telecommunications company Spark, the index's two largest companies by market capitalisation, each rose roughly 1 per cent to NZ$8.35 and NZ$3.18, respectively.

REUTERS

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