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Australia shares slip as investors stay cautious; NZ rises


[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Thursday, dragged down by financials and mining stocks, as many investors remained anxious about the global growth outlook and trade disputes.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.4 per cent or 24.8 points to 6,198.7 at the close. The benchmark barely moved on Wednesday.

Investors shrugged off Wall Street's positive overnight performance, having mixed emotions about minutes of the last Federal Reserve meeting.

The Fed's forecast of no rate hikes in 2019 has cheered investors, but that is rooted in expectation of slowing U.S. growth. In the minutes, policymakers said a "deterioration" in the US economy could be amplified by large debt burdens at American companies.

James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut, said positive leads from the minutes "did not spill over to our markets today as investors here remained cautious, probably focusing on the lack of consensus among the US policymakers".

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There is also concern about US President Donald Trump's threat of new tariffs on goods produced in the European Union, and the Sino-US trade dispute remains unresolved.

Mining stocks dropped 1.1 per cent. Iron ore prices rose slightly but remained far below a record high reached two days ago amid a seven-day surge.

BHP Group fell 0.6 per cent, while rival behemoth Rio Tinto shed 1.3 per cent. Fortescue Metals Group gave up 1.2 per cent.

Gold miners ran out of steam after four sessions of gains. St Barbara tumbled 2.4 per cent while Saracen Mineral Holdings lost 1 per cent.

Financial stocks were off 0.7 per cent, falling for the fifth session out of the last six. Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.5 per cent and Westpac Banking Corp by 1.3 per cent.

Bank of Queensland fell 4.9 per cent, most among financial stocks, after reporting disappointing first-half cash earnings.

Export-oriented healthcare stocks also fell, as the Australian dollar hit a six-week peak, with index heavyweight CSL falling 1.2 per cent while Cochlear shed 1.3 per cent.

Healthcare companies generate a substantial portion of their revenue overseas, particularly in the United States and strength in the Aussie dollar negatively dents their earnings.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.6 per cent or 58.64 points to finish at 9,766.6, snapping a six-day losing streak.

Restaurant Brands New Zealand rose 2.6 per cent.


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