[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell 1.1 per cent on Monday as investors sold stocks on concerns a September rate hike in the US is looking more likely, keeping the ASX on track for its worst monthly performance in seven years.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 59.5 points to 5,204.1 by 0233 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.39 per cent higher on Friday.
The index is set to post its worst monthly performance since October 2008.
Wall Street finished flat on Friday and Asian stocks sagged in early trade after comments by US Federal Reserve vice chairman Stanley Fischer left the door open for a September rate hike.
"This is a market that is walking on glass; China seems to be the central theme feeding into a lot of these things but today the focus is very much on US interest rates again,"said, James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking at Argonaut.
Banks shares struggled, with ANZ and Commonwealth banks fell 2.07 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. "The banks have taken a lot of cash out of the market over the last few months; whilst there have been hefty dividends, this would suggest that a lot of those dividends aren't being reinvested this time around," Mr McGlew said.
Grocery retailers fell with Woolworths and Westfarmers, which includes supermaket chain Coles in its holdings, were down 4.0 per cent and 1.95 per cent respectively.
Natural gas infrastructure company Australian Pipeline Ltd fell as much as 3.4 per cent after being downgraded.
For more on actvity in individual stocks click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 share index edged up 7.55 points or 0.13 per cent to 5,673.635, gaining for a third session after hitting an eight-month low the previous week.
The telecommunications and industrials sectors drove gains, led by Air New Zealand which rose 3.6 percent, boosted by the airline slashing fares on regional flights in response to budget airline Jetstar announcing four new regional routes.
Spark gained 1.68 per cent and hit its highest level in six months, extending gains after strong earnings results. The telecommunications company was an attractive buy due to its share price holding up during a dramatic sell-off in the market earlier this month.
The index is on track to end the month around 4.0 per cent lower, while Spark is on track to finish around 12.5 per cent higher.
Outdoors outfitter Kathmandu lost 1.73 per cent.