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Australia: Shares track lower on weaker commodity prices; NZ falls


[BENGALURU] Australian shares started the week lower on Monday with mining and oil stocks were pressured by weaker commodity prices while banks fell as the powerful Royal Commission inquiry into financial services resumed its work.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 per cent or 34.6 points to 5998.2 at 0241 GMT. The benchmark shed 0.1 per cent on Friday.

The mining index saw its seventh straight session of losses and slid as much as 1.8 per cent after London aluminium and nickel prices dipped on Friday.

Global miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton shed up to 1.1 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group Ltd said its board approved the development of a US$1.28 billion mine and rail project in Western Australia, in a bid to boost the price it gets for its iron ore.

Energy stocks lost up to 3.2 per cent to their lowest in more than a month.

"The global economy seems to be slowing at present from solid levels of growth, and oil is off quite a bit. There is a possibility that OPEC might try to increase production." said Damien Hennessy, co-founder of Heuristic Investment Systems.

To address potential supply shortfalls, Saudi Arabia, de-facto leader of producer cartel Opec, as well as top producer Russia said on Friday they were discussing raising oil production by some one million barrels a day.

Gold stocks also retreated as US President Donald Trump revived hopes of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after cancelling the meeting last week.

Newcrest Mining led the fall, shedding as much as 1.6 per cent to its lowest in more than a month.

Banks also registered losses with the index losing up to 0.5 per cent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia tracked 0.5 per cent lower.

Meanwhile, retail conglomerate Wesfarmers was one of the major drags on the benchmark after local media said it was looking to sell its pubs and liquor business days after it announced the sale of its British Homebase chain for just £1.

Bucking the trend and topping the index, plumbing products maker Reliance Worldwide Corp touched a record after it resumed trade following an announcement last week that it would buy UK-based John Guest Holdings Ltd for about US$923 mln.

Additionally, Investa Office Fund hit a near 10-year high on a US$2.3 billion buyout offer from Blackstone Group.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.1 per cent or five points at 0212 GMT.

Healthcare and consumer staple stocks weighed the most on the index. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation and a2 Milk lost up to 3.8 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.


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