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Australia shares dragged back by banks; NZ down
[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell slightly on Tuesday with financials leading losses, on relatively weak sentiment from Wall Street, and ahead of Reserve Bank of Australia policy review that is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at a record low.
"There isn't much buying in the market, so people are just increasing cash levels, perhaps locking a bit of performance ahead of the calendar year end," said Chris Weston, Istitutional Lender at IG Markets.
The S&P/ASX 200 index hit its lowest in two weeks, inching 1.787 points, or 0.03 per cent, lower to 5,983.9 by 0036 GMT in thin trade.
Overnight, US stocks were a mixed bag with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hitting an all-time high, while the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 1.1 per cent, and the S&P 500 making a record high before ending the session 0.11 per cent lower.
On the home front, Australia's central bank is seen as certain to keep its benchmark interest rates at a record low of 1.5 per cent, according to a Reuters poll.
The RBA eased twice last year but has since held steady as it balances the risk of fuelling further borrowing in the country's red-hot property market against tepid inflation.
For the day, the 'Big four' banks were the biggest drags on the benchmark index, losing between 0.1 per cent and 0.5 per cent.
"I think in Australia no one is really buying banks at the moment as there is a royal commission on the banks and that is keeping the buyers away," Mr Weston added.
The Australian government is holding a wide-ranging inquiry into a scandal-hit finance sector, arguing one was needed to restore public confidence as it reversed its long-held opposition amid mounting political pressure.
Lithium miner Orocobre was the worst performer, down 4.4 per cent.
Miner BHP Billiton lost 0.7 per cent, hurt further by an overnight downturn in oil prices, while Rio Tinto fell 1.2 per cent.
Tech stocks mirrored their US counterparts, with the local tech index down 0.6 per cent as REA Group fell 2.7 per cent.
On the upside, miner South32 was among the top performers on the benchmark index, up 4.6 per cent.
The company on Tuesday announced that it expects capital expenditure in fiscal 2018 to be about US$470 million, below its previous forecast of US$500 million, and reaffirmed its production guidance for all of its operations in fiscal 2018.
Telstra extended gains, hitting its highest in seven weeks, up as much as 2.6 per cent, while Woodside Petroleum added 0.7 per cent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged 0.12 per cent, or 9.7 points, lower to 8,175.17.
Fletcher Building was the top gainer on the benchmark, up 0.9 per cent, while a2 Milk fell 1.3 per cent.