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Australia shares falter on weak earnings; NZ up

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares stumbled on Wednesday, as gains in resource stocks failed to lift broader market sentiment following a bleak outlook for the consumer and property sectors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.2 per cent, or 10.4 points, to 6,096.50 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose per cent on 0.3 per cent on Tuesday.

Weak results across the board have raised concerns about the condition of the Australian economy, as the sharpest property downturn in a generation hampers spending.

Supermarket chain Woolworths Group Ltd on Wednesday warned of a prolonged slump in consumer sentiment as it posted lower-than-expected first-half profit on Wednesday. Its shares fell 5.2 per cent to a near two-month closing low.

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Retail peers Wesfarmers Ltd and Coles Group Ltd slid 1.6 per cent and 5.9 per cent, respectively.

Crown Resorts Ltd, the country's biggest casino operator, reported a sharp decline in Chinese spending at its properties, as its half-year profit missed analyst estimates, pushing its shares 5.3 per cent lower.

An economic slowdown in China, Australia's biggest trade partner, has already driven exporters like vitamin maker Blackmores Ltd to lower profit guidance.

Residential developer Stockland Corporation Ltd also posted a sharply lower half-year profit and warned that a property slump would limit its annual growth to the bottom end of its projection.

The financial sub-index declined 0.5 per cent, with Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dipping 0.8 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

ANZ on Tuesday reported the lowest annualised growth rate in mortgage lending in more than two years, pointing to further signs of a property downturn in the country.

Bucking the trend, mining giant BHP Group climbed 2.5 per cent while Rio Tinto advanced 2.6 per cent, buoying the mining sub-index to a more than seven-year closing high.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.27 per cent, or 25.18 points, to finish the session at 9,249.44.

Dairy product maker a2 Milk Company Ltd was the best performer on the index, posting a record closing high as its shares rose 10.5 per cent.

Chinese demand for infant formula and growing market share in the United States helped the firm post a 55 per cent jump in half-year profit on Wednesday, smashing expectations.

REUTERS