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Australia: Shares fall on Fed, weak commodities


[SYDNEY] Australian shares dropped 0.6 per cent on Thursday with losses spread across the board, although energy stocks were hit hardest by another slide in oil prices.

Also undermining sentiment were hawkish-sounding comments from the head of the Federal Reserve, denting the appetite for risk assets.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 32.33 points to 5,226.6 by 01:36 GMT. The benchmark eased 0.1 per cent on Wednesday.

Natural resources came under pressure yet again, with Origin Energy off 2.5 per cent following another steep fall in oil prices on Wednesday.

Coal miner Whitehaven Coal skidded 2.7 per cent, pulling closer to record lows, while engineering services provider WorleyParsons plumbed 9-year lows with investors wary of its exposure to the mining sector.

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto also came under pressure with prices of iron ore at a record low since The Steel Index (TSI) began compiling data in 2008.

Financial shares nudged down with the "Big Four" major banks losing as much as 0.8 per cent.

Chemicals manufacturer Nufarm was the biggest performer with a fall of nearly 6 per cent after downgrading its outlook for after-tax underlying profit because of challenging conditions in Brazil and Australia.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.3 per cent or 20.86 points to 6,122.45, retracting from a record high of 6,162.970 in the previous session.

Accounting software company Xero fell 2.5 per cent, headed towards its eighth consecutive session of losses after directors announced they had sold shares in the company last week.

Fletcher lost 1.36 per cent while Coats Group fell 3.2 per cent and Spark NZ lost 1.2 per cent.

Online auction company Trade Me rose 0.25 per cent, recovering from a dip earlier in the week.

Ryman Healthcare rose 1.15 per cent and infrastructure company Infratil was up 0.81 per cent.