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Australia: Shares fall, QBE Insurance hit by profit warning; NZ down

[BENGALURU] Australian shares declined on Tuesday, pressured by consumer and energy firms though QBE insurance was the biggest drag as its stock tumbled after the company said rising disaster claims will hurt earnings.

Materials also weighed on the S&P/ASX 200 index, which was off 21.13 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 5,708.3 by 0057 GMT.

Energy stocks were pressured after oil prices fell more than 2 per cent as a rise in US drilling and higher Opec output put the brakes on a rally that helped prices notch their biggest third-quarter gain in 13 years.

The energy index was down 1.22 per cent as Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy declined 0.8 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively. Beach had risen as much as 19.4 per cent on Monday on its first day of trade after acquiring assets from Origin Energy for US$1.25 billion.

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BHP Billiton, which has significant oil exposure was down 0.3 per cent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals declined over 0.3 per cent each.

QBE Insurance fell as much as 5.2 per cent, its lowest since November 2016, after the company said it increased its allowance for large individual risk and catastrophe claims to US$1.75 billion after taking into account impact of hurricanes in the Atlantic and earthquakes in Mexico.

It also expects a pre-tax impact of about US$600 million to its 2017 earnings from the hurricanes.

Investors were also watching out for the Reserve Bank of Australia's policy decision slated at 0330 GMT.

The central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold at a record low of 1.5 per cent with the focus on its assessment of the economy and how that could impact is monetary policy.

Decline in consumer stock also weighed on the index with Wesfarmers and Woolworths down 0.6 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

"Consumer sentiment numbers and retail spending figures in the last quarter aren't painting a particularly bright picture for that sector," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking for Argonaut in Perth. "Particularly for retailers, they are facing a lot of competition with ALDI arriving in the scene and starting to take market shares for Coles and Myer."

TechnologyOne was the worst performer on the index, down 13.6 per cent, its biggest one-day loss in over 8 years, after the company cut its full-year profit guidance.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat, down 0.04 per cent, or 2.93 points, to 7.925.87 with a climb in energy stocks offset by the losses in the consumer space.

Contact Energy gained 0.9 per cent, while A2 milk was down 1.4 per cent.

Data out earlier in the day showed that New Zealand business confidence in the third quarter sank to an 18-month low, hit by a turbulent election campaign with uncertainty likely to drag on as politicians battled to form a government.

REUTERS