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Australia: Shares flat as financials erode gains in materials; NZ up

[BENGALURU] Australian shares were sluggish on Monday, with declines in financial stocks offsetting gains in materials and consumer staples.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.03 per cent or 1.60 points to 6,004.6 by 0109 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Friday.

"The market is being a little bit coarse (macro-oriented) I guess, including the banks. It is taking cues from the Wall Street futures," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

Stock investors gave a muted reaction to the second day of a US government shutdown on Sunday, with US stock index futures dipping only slightly on expectations that the political impasse will not hurt the US economy.

"The most likely scenario would be a reasonably flat sort of a day around current levels," said Mr Spooner.

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Australia's financial stocks hit a 6-week low, falling as much as 0.5 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks losing between 0.3 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

The biggest loser on the main index was Domain Holdings Australia, which fell as much as 12.1 per cent to a record low after the real estate classifieds company said Antony Catalano had resigned as chief executive officer.

Real estate stocks were also lower, with GPT Group sliding as much as 1.4 per cent, while Scentre Group lost 1 per cent.

The metals and mining index rose as much as 0.9 per cent, with mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto adding 0.6 per cent and 0.4 per cent, respectively.

Falling stockpiles and pollution alerts in top metals producer China fuelled supply concerns and helped to drive zinc and lead prices to multi-year highs and aluminium to a two-week peak on Friday.

Materials also got a boost from gold stocks, which climbed as much as 1.2 per cent in early trade, riding on higher gold prices.

Beadell Resources surged as much as 3.9 per cent, while fellow gold miner Evolution Mining gained 1.9 per cent.

Retail giant Woolworths Group pulled the consumer staples sector up, rising as much as 1.4 per cent.

Rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings rose around 2.2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.5 per cent or 43.76 points to 8,332.42, with consumer staples and healthcare stocks accounting for more than half of the gains.

Top gainer a2 Milk Company rose as much as 4.8 per cent to hit a near 2-month high, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp gained 0.5 per cent.


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