Australia shares edge lower on Wall St retreat, gold and oil support

Wed May 14, 2014 10:03pm EDT

Related Topics

* Gold and oil stocks support market

* Trade subdued on absence of catalysts

* Commonwealth Bank of Australia remains well bid after record earnings (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, May 15 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.1 percent on Thursday morning in choppy trade as Wall Street stepped back from record highs and major banks lost ground, though higher gold and oil prices supported resource stocks.

The market has been locked in a fairly narrow range this week as economic events and a handful of corporate results offered no major surprises.

Among banking stocks, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank each lost 0.3 percent as they traded ex-dividend. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the trend in the afterglow of its record third-quarter profit on Wednesday, rising 0.2 percent to all-time highs of A$81.11.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 6.1 points to 5,490.4 by 0130 GMT in light trade.

"It does seem as though the latest budget got away with a few too many (spending) cuts to not ultimately have a negative effect on sentiment," said Scott Schuberg, CEO of Rivkin Securities in a note to clients.

The federal budget on Tuesday included plans for a deficit levy, higher fuel taxes and a fee for all doctor's visits from July 2015 to help return to a surplus within a decade.

Traders said investors were also eyeing inflation, unemployment, and manufacturing readings from the United States later in the global day.

A handful of defensives also fell, with Australia's top telecommunications provider off 0.2 percent.

Gold and energy firms helped support the market on the back of higher prices for the yellow metal and oil. Gold miners Newcrest Mining Ltd and Beadell Resources Ltd climbed 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

A draw on U.S. crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, contract delivery point and gasoline stocks pushed Brent and U.S. crude to three-week highs on Wednesday.

That helped Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Australia's top oil and gas producer, rally 1.1 percent while Santos Ltd added 0.9 percent.

GrainCorp Ltd, Australia's largest listed agribusiness, posted a 43 percent fall in first-half net profit as poor seasonal conditions across the country's east coast curbed production. The stock slipped 0.7 percent.

Prima BioMed Ltd soared 12.5 percent, after the company said its experimental lead treatment improved survival in some ovarian cancer patients without the disease worsening.

Treasury Wine Estates Ltd lifted 4.4 percent after responding to media speculation, saying it has not been approached by Constellation Brands regarding the company's U.S. business.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.2 percent to 5,204.0

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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