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Australia: Shares feel the pressure of weak commodity prices


[SYDNEY] Australian shares slipped 0.6 per cent on Monday with the materials sector feeling the weight of weak commodity prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 32.8-points or, 0.6 per cent, to 5,169.8 by 0129 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Friday.

Gold, oil and most base metals faced downward pressure on Friday night which was felt in the Australian materials sector on Monday. "US dollar strength means the commodities sell-off that we saw last night is what is impacting our market today, because we are so commodities heavy. Players like BHP are down 2 per cent and Rio Tinto is not far behind" said Chris Conway, head of research and trading, Australian Stock Report. "The theme that everyone seems to be playing at the moment is US dollar strength leading into the Federal Reserve decision on December 15/16." Top miner BHP Billion fell as much as 2.7 per cent facing rising bills from a dam disaster in Brazil.

Rio Tinto fell 1.64 per cent while Newcrest Mining and Fortescue Mining fell 3.0 per cent and 2.18 per cent respectively.

The major banks edged up slightly with Westpac Bank up 0.6 per cent and National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank both gaining 0.1 per cent each.

Some healthcare shares were in the black with CSL Ltd up 0.35 per cent while Ansell rose 1.07 per cent.

Technology provider 3D Medical Ltd rose as much as 3 per cent after announcing a reseller agreement Wall Street was little changed after a short session following the Thanksgiving holiday. Asian shares were on edge in early trading after a sharp fall in Chinese markets in the previous session. China reported a 4.6 per cent drop in profits among large industrial firms.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged up 0.21 per cent or 12.700 points to a record high of 6,113.840.

Fisher and Paykel Healthcare led gains, up 2.58 per cent as the medical device maker continued to rise after announcing record half-year results on Friday.

Air New Zealand rose 1.26 per cent while financial organisation Heartland NZ rose 1.53 per cent and Sky TV rose 0.86 per cent.

Accounting software company Xero was down 2.49 per cent, headed for its fourth consecutive session of losses after directors sold shares in the company the previous week.

Shares in Fonterra's fund, which provides investor exposure to the farmer-owned dairy exporter, rose 0.55 per cent as Fonterra announced it was entering a manufacturing arrangement with infant food distributor Bellamy's Australia Ltd .