Australia: Shares down on earnings woes, BHP results awaited; NZ steady

[BENGALURU] Australian shares nudged lower on Tuesday morning as the earnings season kept many investors sidelined, with Oil Search falling after reporting an annual drop in profits while losses in financial stocks dragged on the main index.

Besides the earnings season, which has seen a fare share of disappointments so far, investors are also awaiting data on wages growth, construction and capex, as well as two appearances by central bank chief Philip Lowe. "There is a little bit of profit taking hitting the market today - we don't have any leads from Wall Street to work off this morning," said Ben LeBrun, a market analyst with Optionsxpress.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 10.29 points or 0.2 percent to 5,784.8 points by 0033 GMT.

The main focus for the market on the day is first half earnings from global miner BHP Billiton Ltd expected later. The stock rose 0.6 per cent, while Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1 per cent.

Sentiment for the miners was boosted by copper prices which bounced back above US$6,000 a tonne on Monday as a dispute affecting production at the world's second-biggest copper mine worsened.

Elsewhere, weaker earnings kept buyers at bay. Job classifieds portal Seek Ltd slid as much as 3.8 per cent, its biggest intra-day percentage decline in more than three months, after announcing a 69 per cent fall in its first-half net profit.

Oil Search Ltd was down 1.8 per cent after it reported a 70 per cent drop in annual core profit, hit by weak oil and gas prices.

Brambles Ltd extended its losses, slumping 3 per cent to over a 2-year low after the pallets and container group issued a profit warning on Monday.

The financial index edged 0.3 per cent lower after four straight days of gains. Westpac Banking Corp fell as much as 0.6 per cent before paring losses after it said its level of stressed assets fell slightly in the three months to Dec 31. "The financial sector has run very hard in recent times, so we're seeing some degree of profit taking," Optionsxpress'LeBrun said.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,103.5 points.

Gains in materials and consumer discretionary stocks were offset by declines in telecom and healthcare stocks.

Scales Corp was the top percentage gainer, rising 2.9 per cent to hit a record high.

Among the big losers was Comvita Ltd which shed 2.9 per cent after it reported a net loss after tax for the six months ended Dec 31.


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