Australian shares edge lower as banks, materials falter; NZ down
* Financials and materials drag Aussie shares
* Energy stocks bolstered by higher oil prices
* Spark New Zealand leads NZ shares lower
By Aditya Soni
Sept 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares ticked down on
Wednesday as financials took another hit and mining stocks
slumped on the back of falling commodities prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index edged down 0.2 percent or 9.8
points to 6,169.9 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.6 percent on
Banks and insurers were on the back foot, unable to shake
off revelations in a high profile months-long inquiry of
widespread misconduct in the industry. On Monday, the Royal
Commission heard examples of possible misconduct by insurance
companies, including spying on policyholders, overcharging
customers and misleading sales calls.
Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist with Blue
Ocean Equities, said a weaker Australian dollar wasn't helping
The Australian dollar has lost about 9.3 percent
this year amid the intensifying Sino-U.S. trade dispute, and was
hovering around 2-1/2 year lows against the greenback on
Westpac Banking Corp slipped 0.4 percent, while
National Australia Bank Ltd dropped 0.6 percent to a
more than two-week low.
Elsewhere, Freedom Insurance Group Ltd tumbled 20
percent to an all time low after testifying at the banking
inquiry on Tuesday.
Somasundaram said that the big insurance firms will be next
in the inquiry's spotlight "and it will get much more uglier"
over the next week.
Insurance majors Suncorp Group Ltd and QBE
Insurance Group Ltd were trading 1.3 percent and 1.2
Adding to weak sentiment, Chinese Iron ore futures
lost 1.6 percent after sources suggested China may allow for
more flexible production cuts, driving a weakness in materials
stocks, especially miners.
Global miner BHP dipped 1 percent, while rival Rio
Tinto Ltd fell 0.6 percent.
However, energy stocks bucked the market and were up
for the third straight session as a report of falling crude
inventories and the looming sanctions against Iran bolstered
buying interest into the sector.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the country's biggest
listed oil and gas explorer, jumped 1.9 percent to a more than
one-week high, while Santos Ltd rose 2.4 percent to its
highest since August 24.
APA Group also rallied 2.4 percent after
Australia's competition watchdog gave its nod to Hong Kong's CK
Infrastructure Holdings Ltd for a A$12.98 billion
($9.21 billion) takeover of the gas pipeline operator.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50
index dipped 0.5 percent or 41.34 points to 9,184.23.
Teleco Spark New Zealand Ltd fell 1.4 percent and
was the top drag on the benchmark.
($1 = 1.4092 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by
Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
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