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Australia: Shares slip on Federal Reserve comments, weak earnings; New Zealand rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares fell on Thursday, taking their lead from weakness on Wall Street, while large outflows from AMP and a dividend cut from NAB also weighed on sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 per cent or 28.2 points to 6,347.70 by 0105 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.8 per cent on Wednesday.

Overnight, US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell dampened market hopes of a rate cut this year, saying economic growth was solid.

"The dovish stand the market was having going into it (the FOMC meeting) has been reset, so the US dollar held up and most of the commodities fell and that replicated through our markets," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

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In Australia, the financial index dropped 1.2 per cent, dragged down by disappointing results from wealth manager AMP Ltd and fourth-biggest lender National Australia Bank.

Shares of AMP dropped 5 per cent after it reported a near nine-fold increase in first-quarter cash outflows at its wealth management unit, as the company reels from damaging revelations of misconduct in an inquiry into the country's financial sector.

NAB posted a 7 per cent rise in first-half cash profit but cut its dividend for the first time since 2009 to 83 cents from the 99 cents.

Shares of NAB dipped 0.6 per cent.

Australia's biggest supermarket chain, Woolworths Group , reported a 4.2 per cent rise in third-quarter sales sending its shares to a more than four-year high.

Conglomerate Wesfarmers made a bid to acquire Australian lithium miner Kidman Resources for about A$776 million. Kidman shares rose as much as 45 per cent, while those of Wesfarmers shed as much as 1.2 per cent.

Energy stocks wiped out gains from the previous session. They fell as much as 1.4 per cent to a near one-month low, with natural gas companies Woodside Petroleum and Santos recording 1 per cent and 1.2 per cent declines, respectively.

The Aussie mining index dropped 1.4 per cent to its lowest since Feb 12 after a drop in base metal prices.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 per cent or 37.14 points to 10,003.56.

Spark New Zealand gained 1.1 per cent, while New Zealand listed shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slid 2.3 per cent.

REUTERS