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Australia: Shares drop as banks, commodities drag; NZ flat


[SYDNEY] Australian shares started the week 1 per cent lower on Monday, with a sell-off in bank stocks along with bleak commodity prices weighing on the market.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 57.64 points, or 1 per cent, to 5,665.2 at 0250 GMT, its lowest since June 9. The benchmark fell 0.7 per cent on Friday.

The energy index slipped as much as 2.6 per cent to post its biggest intra-day dip in over a month as oil prices fell. Sentiment was hit by a consultancy's forecast of a rise in output by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec).

All stocks were in the red, except Whitehaven Coal, among the eight constituents in the energy index. "We are recording early losses in the market today and heavier selling in the energy sector this morning following the drop in oil prices that we saw end of last week." said Adam Tout, senior analyst at CPS Capital in Perth.

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The market was led lower by a sell-off in banks too "due to lingering concerns that interest rates may increase at some stage in the future and not anytime soon," Mr Tout said.

Australia's core inflation rate is expected to stay below target for a sixth straight quarter through April-June, a Reuters poll predicted. The analysts' forecasts are a reminder of just why interest rates in the country are at record lows and are set to remain there for months to come. Inflation data is due on Wednesday.

Financials are headed for a second session of losses after a surge on Wednesday and Thursday, buoyed by a positive response to the regulator's new capital rules on banks.

The 'Big Four' banks, down between 1 per cent and 1.7 per cent, led losses in the sector which accounted for more than half the losses in the benchmark.

Mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto followed the downward trend, dipping 0.5 per cent and 1 per cent, due to a slump in iron ore prices while gold miners stepped up after the precious metal hit a 4-week high.

Newcrest Mining edged up more than one per cent to record its biggest intra-day gain in over two moths after the country's biggest gold miner by market capitalisation met its full-year output targets.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 7.19 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 7,663.67 at 0250 GMT.

The index was steady as gains in industrials led by Glass processor Metro Performance Glass Ltd were offset by losses in consumer discretionary stocks, including Sky Network Television Ltd which fell more than 2.5 per cent.