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Australia: Shares ease on stronger Aussie dollar; NZ flat

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[LONDON] Australian shares eased slightly on Thursday, led by real estate stocks, as the Australian dollar rallied on data that showed a record trade surplus last month.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 7.76 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 5,645.4 at the close of trade.

The Australian dollar surged 0.7 per cent to US$0.7639, after the country reported a larger-than-expected trade surplus thanks to surging commodity prices.

Investors typically look to book profits when the Aussie rises against the US dollar, an analyst said.

Real estate stocks were a main driver behind the market's decline.

Shopping centres operator Scentre Group fell 1.13 per cent, while property company Stockland Corporation Ltd slipped 1.37 per cent.

Three of the 'Big 4' banks slipped and Westpac Banking Corp was flat.

Qantas Airways Ltd eased 1.2 per cent, while rival Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd closed 2.3 per cent weaker.

The losses offset gains in the commodities industry, which usually finds support from a declining US dollar.

Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 0.22 per cent, major gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 2.17 per cent, and South32 Ltd ended 0.7 per cent higher.

OceanaGold Corp, however, shed 17.8 per cent after the Philippine mining minister ordered the suspension of some of its mines, citing environmental destruction.

The materials index rose 0.2 per cent, while the metals index rose 0.43 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.03 per cent, or 1.96 points, to finish the session at 7,053.54.

A 1.8 per cent drop in shares of building materials supplier Fletcher Building Ltd drove losses in the materials sector, which fell 0.16 per cent.

Utilities further shaved off 0.10 per cent, led by Meridian Energy Ltd.


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