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Australia: Shares fall on Greece worries, fiscal-year book closing


[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell 1.2 per cent on Thursday on a broad-based sell-off with continuing nervousness about Greece and some disappointment the Federal Reserve did not offer more clarity on when US interest rates would start rising.

Investors trying to close their books for the June 30 end of the financial year put further pressure on shares, analysts said.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 70.43 points to 5,525 by 0203 GMT, after opening marginally down. The benchmark rose 1.1 per cent on Wednesday after three straight declines.

If Thursday's fall is sustained, the market will have its biggest one-day drop in two weeks. "The market got ahead of itself yesterday, maybe there was too much optimism about what the Fed would do and, with worries about Greece, now it's fallen back to earth and given up those gains," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

After its two-day meeting, the Fed said the US economy was likely strong enough to support an interest rate increase by the end of the year. But it lowered its expectations for 2015 economic growth.

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Some analysts had thought the Fed would give a stronger indication of when it will raise rates.

Financials led losses with QBE down 2 per cent and Westpac down 1.6 per cent.

Consumer staples were also in the red with Woolworths losing 1.5 per cent after it slashed its profit forecast on Wednesday.

Major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were down 0.9 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand stocks were stuck around a three-week low as broad-based selling of medium sized stocks offset gains for some leaders, sending the benchmark NZX-50 index down 0.1 per cent to 5,773.49.

The biggest loser was national carrier Air New Zealand down 9.4 per cent to a seven-month low as rival Qantas-owned Jetstar said it planned to expand services to several regional cities, which would challenge Air NZ's dominance.

Other sizable falls came from telecommunications network operator Chorus down 2.4 per cent to a near-three month low, power company Meridian Energy down 2.8 per cent, and outdoor clothing and equipment company Kathmandu down 3.1 per cent.

Fletcher Building up 2 per cent after recent selling and telecommunications company Spark was 1 per cent higher.


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