Australia shares dip in quiet trade, Westfield jumps

Tue Dec 3, 2013 8:41pm EST

(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY Dec 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares eased 0.1 percent in subdued trade on Wednesday morning, but pared early losses after weaker-than-expected economic growth data led some investors to see more chance of an interest rate easing.

Australia's third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter and 2.3 percent year-on-year, a touch lower than analysts forecasts of 0.8 percent and 2.6 percent respectively.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 4.7 points to 5,251.4 by 0108 GMT, having dipped to 5,227.6 in early trade to a six-week low. The benchmark fell 0.4 percent on Tuesday.

"You've got people not wanting to take long positions before the holidays, generally you don't get many leads at the moment," said Martin Angle, a dealer at Patersons Securities.

The Australian market is up nearly 13 percent so far this year on the back of robust earnings and an improving global economic outlook, but has new dipped for four sessions in a row on speculation the Fed is likely to trim its massive stimulus.

"The stall in the S&P/ASX 200 rally in recent weeks suggests that buyers are becoming circumspect at current valuations and are prepared to wait for pullbacks before adding to portfolios," CMC Markets analyst Ric Spooner said in a note to clients.

Big banks weighed on the market, with both Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp down 0.5 percent. National Australia Bank bucked the trend and edged up 0.1 percent.

Heavyweight miners bounced back, with BHP Billiton Ltd up 0.6 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd gaining 0.8 percent. Gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd continued to slide, dropping 2.3 percent.

Shopping mall giant Westfield Group jumped 5.2 percent after it announced plans to separate its global retail assets from its Australia and New Zealand businesses.

Westfield's Australia and New Zealand businesses will be merged with Westfield Retail Trust (WRT) to form a new company, Scentre Group. Its international assets will stand alone as Westfield Corp, the company said.

WRT securities rose 1.7 percent.

Santos Ltd, Australia's No. 2 energy company, dropped 1.3 percent after it said its 2013 production would come in slightly below its earlier forecast.

Australian electronics retailer Dick Smith debuted at A$2.28, a 3.6 percent premium to its issue price, after raising A$345 million ($315 million) in its initial public offering.

Crown Resorts Ltd lost 0.9 percent after a top Sri Lankan official said Crown's $400 million Sri Lankan resort and casino complex in that country faces additional delays and was unlikely to be approved before the end of the year.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 1.1 percent to 4,731.1.

(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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