Australia shares slip to near 2-week low, miners falter

Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:47pm EDT

Related Topics

* Miners weigh on the index, modest uptick in defensives

* Iraq crisis, Wall St losses check sentiment (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Swati Pandey and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped to a near two-week low on Wednesday, with miners and banking stocks losing ground as a deepening crisis in Iraq checked risk appetite.

The Mining sector was the biggest drag with BHP Billiton , Arium and Fortescue Metals Group falling more than 1 percent after Australia revised down its 2015 iron ore and metallurgical coal price forecasts. [ID:nL4N0P54VZ

Losses on Wall Street overnight put a dampener on trading, as concerns about the violence in Iraq eclipsed better U.S. economic data.

That pushed the S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.55 percent or 29.28 points to 5,403.9 by 0240 GMT, after earlier slipping to 5,378.8 points - its lowest since June 13. The market closed 0.4 percent lower on Tuesday.

The benchmark hit a near 6-year high of 5,536.1 on April 29, but has since drifted lower as a rout in iron ore prices, geopolitical tension in Ukraine and unrest in Iraq hit investor sentiment. It has fallen 2 percent so far in June.

"We are near the bottom of the recent trading range," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. "So, the potential from here is a bit of a bounce. Given that we are near the bottom of that range I think we might have a positive week."

The 'Big Four' Australian banks - National Australia Bank , Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia - traded 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent lower.

Shares in Scentre Group Ltd, shopping centre giant Westfield Group's new Australia and New Zealand company, debuted lower while those of Westfield Corp rose when the newly restructured firm relisted on Wednesday.

A handful of consumer staples, utilities and telcos stocks bucked the trend. "Clearly those stocks with transparent earnings and straight forward businesses are more appealing to investors in the current volatile trading environment," McCarthy added.

Outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu rose slightly, while Treasury Wine Estates was up more than 4 percent after announcing a change in its business model.

New Zealand stocks were flat with the benchmark NZX-50 index down 6.47 points or 0.1 percent at 5,114.74.

Among the bigger moves once again was accounting software company Xero Ltd bouncing up 4.2 percent to NZ$27.00.

Market regulators queried recent sharp moves in Xero's price on Tuesday, but the company said it had no new information for investors.

The latest debutant on the NZX, utilities software developer Gentrack Group Ltd listed at NZ$2.58, a 7.5 percent premium to an issue price NZ$2.40. It last traded at NZ$2.53.

($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)

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