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Australia: Shares extend fall on Westpac, trade deal woes

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7 per cent to 6,672.90 at the close of trade.

[SYDNEY] Australian shares closed another session of losses on Thursday, pressured by scandal-hit Westpac Banking Corp, and also a flare-up in tensions surrounding US-China trade negotiations.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.7 per cent to 6,672.90 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 1.4 per cent on Wednesday.

Financial stocks, which comprise the lion's share of the benchmark, shed almost 1 per cent to close at a six-month trough, with Westpac Banking Corp finishing at its lowest since Feb 4.

Australia's financial crime regulator on Wednesday alleged that the lender was involved in money laundering and had breached laws on over 23 million instances.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that the board of Westpac must review the position of CEO Brian Hartzer, laying further pressure on the company.

Appetite for risky assets fizzled after US-China trade negotiations hit a snag, following the passing of the pro-Hong Kong rights bill by Congress which President Donald Trump is set to sign.

"With China reiterating retaliatory measures over the bill, both sides could be locked in a standoff," analysts at Mizuho wrote in a note to clients.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 per cent or 17.3 points to finish the session at 10,958.16, dragged lower by energy and financial stocks.