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Australia: Shares dip as weak oil, policy uncertainty sully mood

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares nudged lower on Thursday, dragged down by industrials and energy stocks as investors grappled with plunging oil prices and worries over the ability of world's major central banks to stimulate growth.

Oil prices fell about 3 per cent for a second straight day on Wednesday, after data showing large weekly builds in US petroleum products offset a surprise draw in crude stockpiles.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 16.59 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 5,211.1 by 0210 GMT.

"There is still a lot of uncertainty. I was quite surprised by how much the volatility dried up in August and what you see now is a return of it again as people start to try to make sense of all this noise (around policy)," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

While expectations over a US Federal Reserve rate hike at next week's policy meeting have dimmed, investors have been bracing for a tightening before year-end.

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Perceived limits to the broad monetary easings led by major central banks such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have also soured risk sentiment, driving global debt yields higher.

Industrials and energy stocks were the biggest drag on the index, accounting for nearly half of the losses.

Energy stocks fell for a fourth straight session on the back of tumbling oil prices, hitting a low not seen in two months. Oil majors Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search fell more than 1.5 per cent.

Top listed travel agent Flight Centre Travel Group Ltd plunged more than 4 per cent, recording its biggest intraday percentage loss since June.

Qantas Airways Ltd snapped two sessions of gains to slide 1.5 per cent.

Australia's biggest bank by market cap, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, extended gains to climb 1.6 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index extended losses into a sixth-straight session, falling 0.3 per cent or 18.07 points to 7,192.65.

Gross domestic product rose a seasonally adjusted 0.9 per cent in the second quarter versus the prior quarter, a tad below expectations.

Economists polled by Reuters expected 1.1 per cent growth on the quarter.

Telecom, healthcare and financial stocks dragged the index down.

Freightways Ltd was among the biggest losers on the index, down 3 per cent, while Tower Ltd fell 2.5 per cent.

Steel goods manufacturer Steel & Tube Ltd was the biggest percentage loser on the benchmark, plummeting more than 7 per cent in its biggest intra-day percentage loss in nearly six months.


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