Australia shares slip on Fed's policy concerns; miners consolidate

Thu Jan 3, 2013 8:20pm EST

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
    SYDNEY, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.3
percent in late morning trade on Friday, with investors pulling
back after a sharp two-day rally on the U.S. Federal Reserve's
growing concerns about its highly stimulative monetary policy.
    Top miners lost ground after hitting their highest since
last February on Thursday. BHP Billiton Ltd dropped 0.8
percent, while Rio Tinto Ltd lost 0.9 percent.
    "We had such a strong rise over the last two trading days,
it was inevitable we see some pull-back," said Michael McCarthy,
chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
    Statistics showed iron ore shipments to China from
Australia's Port Hedland surged 25 percent in December and total
iron ore shipments in December jumped 20 percent to almost 26
million tonnes, the highest reading on record. 
    Meanwhile, iron ore prices have been in a steep ascent over
the last three months and climbed to a 15-month high of $149.80
a tonne .IO62-CNI=SI on Thursday thanks to demand from China.
    With the medium-term outlook looking positive, miners were
actually consolidating their recent gains in this session,
McCarthy added.
    The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 12.2 points at
4,728.4 by 0059 GMT. It rose 0.7 percent to 4,740.7 on Thursday,
its highest since May 19, 2011.
    Although trading volume was low, which was normal at this
time of the year, the market has seen a high degree of retail
participation, McCarthy said.
    "Individual investors are buying this market rather than
institutional investors which normally dominate it," he said.
"It's a unusual situation but it's a sign of growing confidence
in the investment base generally."
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched down 0.1
percent to 4,079.0.
    
    STOCKS ON THE MOVE
    * Shares in construction company Macmahon Holdings Ltd
 jumped 3.5 percent after it confirmed it had received a
conditional proposal for its construction business from
Sembawang Australia, a local arm of India's Punj Lloyd Ltd
. 
    (0048 GMT)
    
    * Coal company Blackwood Corp Ltd plunged 8.3
percent following its announcement on Monday about the extension
of the draw down facility provided by majority shareholder Noble
Group Ltd.
    The company is also seeking to settle a debt dispute with
Mulsanned Resources, a company in liquidation controlled by
mining magnate Nathan Tinkler.    
    (0058 GMT)

 (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Chris Gallagher)