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Australia: Shares slip on weak commodities, NZ stocks also soft

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Australian shares dipped on Thursday as mining and energy firms came under pressure on weak commodity prices outlook, though retailers and other discretionary stocks edged up.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares dipped on Thursday as mining and energy firms came under pressure on weak commodity prices outlook, though retailers and other discretionary stocks edged up.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 0.5 per cent or 27.1 points to 5,932.8 by 03:52 GMT. The benchmark edged up 0.6 per cent higher on Wednesday and remained in sight of a seven-year peak of just under 6,000.

Australia's benchmark index rose a solid 8.9 per cent in January-March, its best quarterly gain since the third quarter of 2009.

Mining stocks were mostly lower on Thursday, with Fortescue Metals among the worst performers, shedding 3.2 per cent. Shares in the world's fourth-largest iron ore producer have tumbled 70 per cent since February.

The latest drop followed a media report citing US investors selling bonds of Australian mining companies due to plunging iron ore prices. News that China will cut taxes on iron ore to help domestic producers added to the negative sentiment.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto declined more than 1 per cent. Among energy shares, Woodside Petroleum dipped 2.8 percent, while Worley Parsons lost 2.1.

Bank shares were also soft, but stocks of companies depending on discretionary spending were in the black, thanks in part to a 3.5 per cent jump in Myer Holdings. That was rooted in speculation private equity groups were considering a takeover move on the department store chain.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX50 index was down 0.2 per cent at 5,846.16 amid mild selling pressure across the board.

Power companies remained under pressure, with part-privatised Meridian Energy the worst-performer, down 3.4 per cent to a two-month low. The energy sub-index was down 1.18 per cent.

Jewellery retailer Michael Hill International fell more than 4 per cent to a five-month low after reporting a slight lift in sales but warning its Australian stores were under pressure, which would weigh on the full-year result. It was last down 2.5 per cent.

Wood products company Tenon maintained its recent solid run, rising 2.6 percent to a six-month high of NZ$2.01 though turnover was thin.

Transport and logistics firm Fliway had a low key debut after its recent share offer, trading between NZ$1.16 and NZ$1.22 compared with an issue price of NZ$1.20.

REUTERS