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Australia: Shares hit near 1-month low as crude prices dip


[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped for a second straight session on Monday as energy stocks took a hit on oil price drop after Iraq said it does not want to join the production cut to prop up the market.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.9 per cent, or 47.92 points, to 5,430.32 by 1227 GMT. It lost as much as 0.97 per cent, to hit a near one-month low.

Oil prices fell after Iraq said it wanted to be exempt from a production cut by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) that the group plans to decide at its Nov 30 meeting.

The benchmark energy index slipped over one per cent to touch its lowest in three weeks, with oil majors Santos Ltd down 2.6 per cent and Oil Search Ltd dropping 1.6 per cent.

"Oil prices are under pressure and are trading light," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

"There is some profit-taking in the market ahead of some major events, such as (Australia's) CPI data due this week."

Australia's central bank last week said coming data on inflation and employment will be critical for policy decisions at its next meeting on Nov 1, opening the door to a possible interest rate cut.

Financials, the biggest constituent of the index posted losses with the 'Big Four' banks moving into the red. Some local media reports flagged that Australia's major lenders may be under pressure to cut dividends as the earnings season kicks off. The benchmark financial index fell as much as 0.79 per cent, its biggest percentage drop in more than a week.

NAB shares fell for a third straight session to their lowest in a month. Investors are waiting for the lender's earnings, due later this week.

The gold index shed 1.4 per cent with gold miners Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining falling more than one per cent.

On the upside, Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia Ltd hit a two-month high, posting gains for a fifth straight session, after China Oceanwide Holdings agreed to buy all outstanding shares of its parent Genworth Financial for US$2.7 billion. The stock was among the top performers on the index.

New Zealand's stock market was closed for Labour Day.