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Australia shares inch down as banks drag; NZ flat

[BENGALURU] Australian shares ended lower on Monday, with Westpac's results weighing on the benchmark as the lender's net profit result missed expectations and pointed to difficult conditions ahead.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index ended down 0.1 per cent, or 6.08 points, at 5953.8.

Westpac Banking Group reported a 3 per cent rise in annual cash profit for the year ended Sept 30, narrowly missing forecasts and sending the shares to close down 2.2 per cent after touching the lowest in nearly a month.

Other "Big Four" banks followed suit, falling from 0.5 per cent and to 0.7 per cent and taking their place among the top decliners.

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Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd said it would close its retail banking business in the Philippines as big Australian banks try to shed capital-intensive assets as capital adequacy rules become more onerous.

Materials dragged, with the metals and mining stocks index falling 0.2 per cent.

Gold held steady on Monday, but hovered near the one-week low hit in the previous session. The gold index slipped 0.7 per cent with gold miners Newcrest Mining and St Barbara both losing more than one per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 11.49 points or 0.1 per cent to 8053.63, dragged by consumer staples and IT stocks.

A2 Milk Company was the biggest decliner, shedding 2.1 per cent as global dairy prices fell, followed by accounting platform Xero closing 2 per cent lower.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand is all but certain to hold interest rates at record lows this week to support a slowing economy as markets wait for the new government to map out its policies, including planned changes to the central bank's mandate.