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Australia: Shares slip on global growth concerns, weak consumer data


[SYDNEY] Australian shares slipped on Tuesday led by losses in resources and industrial stocks following downbeat manufacturing data from the world's two biggest economies and poor consumer confidence numbers at home.

Chinese and U.S. manufacturing figures released Monday, which showed factory activity has been contracting at a faster rate than economists had expected, rocked investor confidence in the global growth outlook. Falling crude oil prices also pressured investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index eased 27.59 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 5,016.00 by 0157 GMT. The benchmark rose nearly 1 per cent in the last session, having touched its highest level in four weeks.

"I think everyone is very keen to see if Australian companies, operating in a relatively healthy economy, are able to perform better than their American counterparts in that regard," said Chris Conway, Head of Research at Australian Stock Report. "If they can't, and further cost-cutting is they're only saving grace, then it could be a tough period." The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index fell 0.9 per cent in the week ending Jan 31, the first negative start to the year since 2008.

Investors also awaited the outcome of the Reserve Bank of Australia's policy meeting, expected at 0330 GMT. All 32 economists polled by Reuters predicted that the central bank will hold interest rates steady at a record low of 2.0 per cent, where they have stood since May 2015.

Mining giant BHP Billiton fell as much as 1.6 per cent while rival Rio Tinto skidded 1.8 per cent after ratings agency Standard & Poor's lowered the credit ratings of BHP and put it on negative watch while it placed Rio Tinto on watch negative, both actions due to challenging market conditions for commodities.

Shares of Australian gold miners OceanaGold Corp, Northern Star Resources Ltd rose between 4.3 per cent and 9.7 per cent.

Energy shares such as Woodside Petroleum and Origin slipped 2.5 per cent and 3.4 per cent each.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 11 points to 6,185.68 on Tuesday.

The biggest gainers were Fletcher Building, up 1.7 per cent after it bought Higgins Group Holdings, New Zealand's third-largest road construction and maintenance company.

Ryman Healthcare added 1.5 per cent while Xero was down 1.5 per cent.

In New Zealand, investors will be watching for Wednesday's fourth quarter labour data for any clues on whether the central bank might cuts rates again in March. A speech by central bank Governor Graeme Wheeler will also garner attention.