Australia shares slip, pulled lower by banks and Woolworths

Tue Apr 29, 2014 10:18pm EDT

* Financial sector weak ahead of earnings results

* Woolworths drags after missing analyst estimates (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, April 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.1 percent on Wednesday, pulled down by banks and index heavyweight Woolworths, though gains on Wall Street overnight and a recovery in miners helped keep the market afloat.

Woolworths Ltd dropped 2.3 percent after saying its third-quarter sales from continuing operations rose less than analysts had expected.

The news hit other retailers, with Wesfarmers Ltd down 1.1 percent and electronics seller JB Hi-Fi Ltd losing 1.9 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 7.6 points at 5,479.0 as of 0139 GMT. It is on track to gain 1.6 percent on the month.

The benchmark lost 0.9 percent on Tuesday, snapping seven consecutive sessions of gains.

Financials fell for a second session. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp both slipped 0.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia was flat. All three stocks had touched record highs in recent sessions.

"The banks have had a 3 percent rally in April that we anticipated, we sold all our bank holdings in the last week," said Shawn Hickman, managing director at Market Matters.

"I think people are maybe staying out of the longs ahead of tomorrow's numbers," referring to results due on Thursday from ANZ, the first major bank to report for the latest quarter.

Resource stocks added some support. BHP Billiton Ltd rose 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd gained 0.6 percent. OceanaGold Corp soared 10.6 percent after reporting strong earnings results and record quarterly gold production from the Didipio Mine.

Brambles Ltd shed 1.7 percent after the logistics company said sales revenue for the nine months ended March was up 6 percent at $3.97 billion. CEO Tom Gorman said growth had offset the adverse short-term impact on pallet volumes from the severe North American winter and late timing of Easter.

Aditya Birla Minerals slumped nearly 40 percent to A$0.19, its lowest since April 2009, after reporting a drop of 36 percent in ore mined during the quarter compared with the previous corresponding period.

U.S. stocks rose overnight, boosted by upbeat corporate earnings and a rebound in Facebook and other high-growth shares.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index climbed 0.9 percent, or 47.5 points, to 5,195.8.

Accounting software firm Xero jumped 6.6 percent after the company struck an alliance with U.S. tax outfit H&R Block, bouncing back after a steep decline over the past few weeks. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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