Australia shares skid as Yellen spooks investors; Myer hit by soft guidance

Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:22am EDT

SYDNEY, March 20 - Australian shares fell 1.1 percent on Thursday to finish at their lowest point in five weeks, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen rattled investors by suggesting that interest rate hikes may come sooner than previously thought.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 58.4 points to 5,297.2, taking it to its lowest close since February 11, with heavyweight bankers and miners leading the slide. The benchmark edged up 0.2 percent on Wednesday.

Australia's biggest department store Myer Holdings Ltd dropped 5.3 percent to a one-month low, after it reported a decline in first-half profits and offered a downbeat outlook for the rest of year.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.2 percent to 5,145.4 points. (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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