Australia shares slip in choppy trade, RBA eyed

Mon Jun 2, 2014 10:30pm EDT

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By Thuy Ong and Naomi Tajitsu

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.2 percent in choppy trade on Tuesday, with defensive stocks losing ground while the resource sector posted modest gains as new data showed growth in China - Australia's largest export market.

Miners posted modest gains after copper rose overnight, recovering from earlier sessions' selloffs on a slump in iron ore prices.

Bellwhether resource stocks BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd added 0.3 percent and 1.3 percent each. Elsewhere, Oz Minerals Ltd jumped 2.5 percent, while Sirius Resources Ltd climbed 2.9 percent.

China's services sector grew at its fastest pace in six months in May as new orders rebounded, an official survey showed, reinforcing hopes that the Chinese economy may be steadying after a tumultuous few months.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 11.9 points to 5,506.6 by 0202 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.5 percent on Monday.

Australian retail turnover for April came in line with expectations, with an uptick of 0.2 percent. Among retail stocks, department store operator Myer Holdings Ltd tumbled 2.3 percent, while grocer Woolworths Ltd lost 0.8 percent.

"Unless something changes, there's a bit of weakness in retail because of (the warm winter) weather I guess, the budget hasn't been particularly helpful again to the consumer sectors," said Don Williams, chief investment officer at Platypus Asset Management.

"That's just a short-term thing, the medium trend is the market is going to continue to move higher - the dividend yield in the market is still attractive."

Defensives lost ground, with top telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd slipped 0.6 percent, while blood products maker CSL Ltd dropped 0.7 percent.

Investors will also monitor the outcome of the Reserve Bank of Australia's monthly policy meeting due at 0430 GMT. All 27 economists polled by Reuters see the RBA keeping the cash rate on hold at a record low of 2.5 percent.

Growthpoint Properties Australia Ltd dropped 2.3 percent after saying it had acquired a large property in New South Wales, to be funded by an equity raising of A$80 million to A$125 million.

Elsewhere, Australian government consumption and investment spending fell 0.8 percent in the first quarter to an inflation-adjusted A$85.88 billion, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Tuesday.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 4.82 points to 5,173.21, led by a near 6 percent slide in outdoor clothing company Kathmandu Limited, which sank to a two-month low of NZ$3.40 after National Australia Bank Limited said it had cut its shareholding in the company.

Sentiment was weak after New Zealand clothing retailer Postie Plus Limited was placed under voluntary administration following its failure to fine significant new capital as its losses mount.

Trading in Postie Plus shares were halted late last week, and the company said they would remain so until further notice.

Further losses in the index were limited by gains in gold producer OceanaGold Corporation, which rose 3.8 percent to NZ$2.74 on the back of a positive outlook forecast issued late last week.

Transport and logistics company Mainfreight Limited climbed 3 percent to NZ$14.20, keeping it near a record high of NZ$14.25 hit last week. Investors continued to pick up shares in the company after it announced a bigger-than-expected rise in annual profits last week.

Agribusiness company Scales Corporation Limited on Tuesday said it was planning an initial public offer and stock exchange listing - the third New Zealand company in a week to do so.

(Editing by Eric Meijer)

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