Australia shares slip on mixed unemployment data, healthcare buoys

Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:31pm EDT

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By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.4 percent on Thursday to a one-week low following falls in most sectors on Wall Street and mixed employment data at home.

Australia's unemployment rate remained at 5.8 percent in May - a Reuters poll had forecast 5.9 percent - while the number of jobs fell 4,800 last month, against an expectation for a gain of 10,000.

"Things are perhaps a little bit softer than we had anticipated heading in," said Tom Kennedy, economist at JP Morgan.

Banks dragged on the index with Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 0.6 percent, National Australia Bank off 0.5 percent, and Westpac Banking Corp 0.2 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 24.3 points to 5,429.7 by 0210 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.3 percent on Wednesday.

U.S. stocks fell overnight, with the Dow breaking a four-day string of record closing highs, following the World Bank's reduction of its global growth forecast.

"In an ongoing sentiment disconnect with some of the major global indices, which have soared into unchartered territory, our local benchmark has continually stumbled in recent sessions," said Niall King, sales trader at CMC Markets in a note to clients, adding that the commodity slump has piled misery on resource stocks.

BHP Billiton Ltd slipped 0.3 percent while rival bluechip Rio Tinto Ltd skidded 0.7 percent. Iron ore fell and stayed close to its weakest level since September 2012 at below $100 a tonne as brisk supply and poor demand has cut prices nearly one-third this year.

Among healthcare stocks, Ramsay Healthcare Ltd helped lift the sector, jumping 2.7 percent after Australia's largest private hospital operator said it will buy a majority stake in Generale de Sante SA in a deal valuing its French counterpart at 945 million euros. Virtus Health Ltd added 0.6 percent

Mineral Resource Ltd lost 3.5 percent after confirming it acquired a 12.8 percent stake in Aquila Resources Ltd and wants to build and operate Australia's West Pilbara Iron Ore project. Aquila dropped 2.2 percent.

Leighton Holdings Ltd rose 0.7 percent after Australia's largest construction firm said it is considering selling its services, property and transport infrastructure businesses in a restructure led by its new Spanish owner ACS Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA.

FSA Group Ltd issued a profit guidance, saying it has revised its profit after tax guidance up 18 percent to 25 percent for FY 2014. Its shares jumped nearly 10 percent to 3-month highs of A$1.26.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,184.8.

New Zealand's central bank raised interest rates on Thursday and said the strength of the currency and data would dictate the pace of future rises as it pointed to a steady but moderate tightening of policy. (Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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