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Australia: Shares fall as energy, financials weigh


[SYDNEY] Australian shares continued their slide for the fourth straight session, dropping 0.2 per cent on Thursday as energy-related stocks fell while muted guidance from major companies dampened sentiment.

Investors remained cautious over the Greek debt negotiations amid conflicting headlines on progress in the talks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 11.4 points to 5,757.7 by 0130 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

A recent bull run lasting 12 straight sessions, equal to the country's longest ever, also has convinced many investors to take profits, traders said. "There's been a few things going on today - a little bit of profit-taking, markets digesting varying degrees of information coming out of Greece, a drop in oil prices," said Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG Markets.

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The index is trading at 16.1 times its forward earnings compared with a historical average of 13.8 times, Lucas added. He expects the market to pull back to 5,600-5,700 levels in the near term. "Fundamentals are stretched, there are forward guidance concerns," he added.

On Wednesday, Commonwealth Bank of Australia warned that uncertainty over the country's leadership and policies was hurting business confidence. CBA fell 0.8 per cent with the other major banks also traded lower.

Australia's largest telecoms company Telstra gave a flat income guidance for the full year on Thursday. Its shares fell 0.2 per cent.

Energy stocks traded lower after oil prices fell as much as 3 per cent. Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search were down 0.5 to 2 per cent.

New Zealand stocks were a shade easier with the benchmark NZX-50 index 0.3 per cent lower at 5771.89 in lacklustre trading ahead of major company earnings reports due next week.

Of the top-10 stocks telecommunications operator Spark was down 2.6 per cent at NZ$3.36 and Contact Energy was 1.1 per cent lower at NZ$6.94.

Both stocks, which report half-year earnings next week, have been on strong runs this year and investors have from time to time taken advantage to book gains.

The Warehouse and Michael Hill International were firmer, rising 2.2 perc ent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

NZ Oil and Gas was up 0.8 percent to NZ$0.62 as it looked to takeover Australian based Cue Energy, which has a stake in a New Zealand oil field.