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Australian stocks benchmark set to end lower for 4th straight session, NZ down

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares were lower on Wednesday as commodity-related stocks fell, with oil prices down for a third day in a row on Tuesday, and the price of nickel down more than 5 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5 per cent or 27.146 points to 5941.6 by 0045 GMT, but was slightly stronger at 5,946.6 by 0130 GMT. The benchmark dropped 0.8 per cent on Tuesday.

Oil prices fell after the International Energy Agency, a forum of 29 countries under the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, forecast on Tuesday that oil demand growth would increase more gradually over the coming months which may result in a surplus in the first half of next year.

Retreating nickel prices on Tuesday led a broad-based pullback in base metals prices after weaker-than-expected economic data from China sparked concerns about demand.

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Iron ore futures on the Dalian Commodity Exchange were 4.6 per cent lower, while Shanghai rebar prices declined 2.5 per cent at 0038 GMT.

Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto were the biggest drag on the index, dropping as much as 2.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively.

The energy index slipped 2.4 per cent during the day, on track to close lower for a sixth consecutive session. Oil and gas explorer Beach Energy Ltd was the biggest percentage loser on the sector's index, shedding 6.8 per cent.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Australia's largest independent oil and gas company, lost as much as 2.8 per cent is on track to finish its fourth consecutive session lower.

Royal Dutch Shell said on Monday it had sold its entire Woodside stake for US$2.7 billion.

Woodside Petroleum's shares closed at A$32.24 on Monday and fell as as low as A$30.34 on Wednesday.

Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets said that there were reports of investors selling stocks to make room in their portfolios for holdings of Woodside.

That selling in turn triggered a round of profit-taking that continued in the banks and industrial sector, Mr Spooner added.

The financial index fell close to its lowest in a month while engineering services provider Monadelphous Group Ltd and Sydney Airport Holdings dropped as much as 3.3 per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent or 17.35 points to 7990.65.

The biggest losers on the index were utilities and telecommunication stocks.

Spark New Zealand fell as much as 1.6 per cent and Genesis Energy Ltd slumped 5.3 per cent to NZ$2.09, its lowest since Oct 9.

REUTERS

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