Australian shares seen slipping on Ukraine-Russia fears
MELBOURNE, March 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares are set to open a touch weaker on Tuesday, with global investors selling risk assets and seeking shelter in gold and the U.S. dollar as a confrontation between Ukraine and Russia intensifies. * Local share price index futures slipped 0.3 percent to 5,375.0, a 9.3-point discount to the underlying S&P/ASX 200 index close. The benchmark fell 0.4 percent on Monday. * New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.3 percent to 4,992.5 in early trade. * U.S. stocks sold off on Monday alongside other risky assets globally as Russia cemented its control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared he had the right to invade his neighbor. * The geopolitical tension sent the U.S. dollar higher, adding to pressure on copper prices, which sank to three-month lows on Monday after data showed a modest cooling in factory activity in China, the world's top consumer of the metal. * Struggling Qantas Airways will be in the frame after the Australian coalition government agreed to loosen restrictions on foreign ownership of the national carrier. Opposition Labor politicians said the plan would not pass parliament, even with a new Senate in July. * Graincorp shares may come under pressure after Australia's chief commodities forecaster said drought conditions across the east coast will cut output of key farm commodities such as wheat and beef next season and reduce exports. * The Reserve Bank of Australia holds its March policy meeting on Tuesday, where it is considered almost certain to hold rates at a record low of 2.5 percent. Its decision is due to be released at 0330 GMT. ----------------------MARKET SNAPSHOT @ 2119 GMT ------------ INSTRUMENT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1845.73 -0.74% -13.720 USD/JPY 101.38 -0.41% -0.420 10-YR US TSY YLD 2.6012 -- -0.059 SPOT GOLD 1351.01 1.90% 25.220 US CRUDE 104.67 2.03% 2.080 DOW JONES 16168.03 -0.94% -153.68 ASIA ADRS 142.30 -1.11% -1.60 ------------------------------------------------------------- * Wall St closes lower on unrest in Ukraine * Oil jumps more than $2 on worries of Ukraine conflict * Gold jumps 2 pct as Ukraine crisis fuels risk flight * Copper sinks to three-month lows as China weighs For a digest of the day's business stories in Australian newspapers, double click on (Australia/New Zealand bureaux; +61 2 9373 1800/+64 4 471 4234)
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