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Australia: Shares on track to extend losses; NZ rises

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were on track to fall for a second straight day on Wednesday, led by materials, with stock round the world weakening in the wake of falling oil prices and rising bond yields.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 per cent or 12.10 points to 6,010.70 by 0120 GMT. The benchmark declined 0.9 per cent on Tuesday.

"For the past couple of days we've had a bit of caution creeping in the world equity markets ahead of a number of key events that could change the outlook for the bond markets and stock market valuation," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The US Federal Reserve is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged when its two-day policy meeting concludes later in the global day, but investors will look for hints on the outlook for rates in the policy statement.

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An official survey on the Chinese manufacturing sector made discouraging reading for Australian exporters. It showed growth slowed to an eight-month low in January, reinforcing the view that the world's second largest economy, and Australia's biggest export market, was beginning to lose steam.

In Australia, the metals and mining index dipped nearly a per cent to its lowest in four-weeks.

BHP, the country's biggest company by market cap, slid 1 per cent to a one-month low, dragging the index, while its rival Rio Tinto fell 1.9 per cent.

Banks followed closely, mirroring their US counterparts which fell 1.2 per cent on Tuesday.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) declined 0.2 per cent. Australia's corporate regulator said on Tuesday it had started legal proceedings against CBA over rate-manipulation allegations.

Energy stocks also fell as oil slid, driven by ongoing evidence of rising US crude output.

Origin Energy Ltd slipped 1.6 per cent despite a 26 per cent rise in second-quarter revenue.

On the positive side, real estate stocks surged after the release of inflation data, which was seen as slightly soft, reducing expectations for a rise in Australian interest rates.

Property developer Scentre Group rose 2 per cent, while Stockland Corp climbed 0.6 per cent.

Sirtex Medical soared 46 per cent and was the top percentage gainer on benchmark, after accepting US$1.3 billion takeover offer from Varian Medical Systems on Tuesday.

New Zealand shares rose, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rising 0.2 per cent or 16.66 points to 8,315.24.

Industrials and healthcare stocks accounted for most of the gains, with Ryman Healthcare rising 2 per cent and Auckland International Airport climbing 1.1 per cent.

REUTERS

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