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Australia shares lose steam as financials, real estate stocks weigh

[BENGALURU] Australian shares snapped their biggest winning streak in almost three years on Monday, ending lower as property stocks weighed and financials stocks surrendered early gains following their recent run higher.

The S&P/ASX 200 index rose as much as 0.3 per cent during the day before ending 0.2 per cent, or 12.988 points, lower at 5,894. The benchmark index rose 0.2 per cent on Friday, making eight straight days of gains, its best winning streak since January 2015.

"At some stage, we are going to be at the mercy of traders looking to take a bit off the table and I think that is where we are right now," said Chris Weston, an institutional dealer with IG Markets.

Early gains in the index were supported by financial stocks, which took their cues from a record close on Wall Street in the previous session, after the US Senate approved a 2018 budget blueprint, lifting hopes that US President Donald Trump's tax-cut plan may move forward.

"We have discounted a lot of good news, but nothing has really changed. This is just merely profit-taking, the macro backdrop is still very much inducive of risk appetite," Mr Weston said.

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The selloff was led by real estate stocks, which accounted for more than a quarter of losses in the index, with industrial property developer Goodman Group Pty Ltd falling 2.3 per cent to its lowest in over two weeks, and shopping centre developer Westfield Corp dropping 1.9 per cent.

The benchmark index of financial stocks, which gained as much as 0.4 per cent during the day, ended marginally lower, with the "Big Four" banks closing between 0.1 per cent to 0.5 per cent.

The financials index also snapped eight consecutive session of gains.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd ended 0.2 per cent lower after it signed a last-minute deal to settle a case brought by the country's securities regulator accusing it of manipulating the bank bill swap rate.

Among material stocks, mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd closed 0.7 per cent lower, while South32 Ltd ended down 0.8 per cent.

Gold miners continued to be a drag on the benchmark index, with Evolution Mining ending 1.7 per cent lower. Gold prices took a hit as optimism surrounding US tax reform boosted riskier assets and dragged gold prices.

Telecom stocks led the gainers, with Telstra Corp closing 1.7 per cent up after Australian Competition & Consumer Commission decided not to declare domestic mobile roaming.

New Zealand markets were closed for a holiday on account of Labour Day.


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