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Australian shares end flat as financials and materials weigh; NZ falls

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed flat on Monday as losses in materials and banking stocks offset positive sentiment stemming from easing US-China trade tensions, while the healthcare index rose to a record high on an extended rally in CSL Ltd.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.90 points to 6,084.5 at the close of trade. The benchmark declined 0.1 per cent on Friday.

Banks fell, dragging on the benchmark. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 0.6 per cent to its lowest since Sept. 2016, while Westpac Banking Corp dipped 0.7 per cent to a three-week low.

Materials stocks also traded lower as China's Dalian iron ore futures fell more than 3 per cent.

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Global miner BHP slipped 0.4 per cent and rival Rio Tinto Ltd slid 0.9 per cent.

But biotherapeutics developer CSL Ltd rose to its highest level ever after raising its annual profit outlook on Friday.

Positive sentiment from CSL spilled over to the broader sector, with the Australian healthcare index rising 1.4 per cent to a record high.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 per cent or 41.61 points to finish the session at 8,615.72.

Consumer staples led the decline, with heavyweight a2 Milk Company Ltd dipping 2.3 per cent, while Comvita Ltd slumped 8 per cent to a nine-month low.

Health products producer Comvita said that talks with an unnamed third party for a possible takeover of the company have ended without a deal due to a "considerable distance" between the parties on price.