Australia shares slip on Ukraine worry, Wall Street but CSL earnings buoy

Wed Aug 13, 2014 12:26am EDT

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By Thuy Ong and Naomi Tajitsu

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.2 percent on Wednesday after Wall Street edged down and investors again became wary about developments in Ukraine, though an uptick in earnings helped buoy the market.

Investors kept an eye on Russia, which sent a convoy of 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine. Western officials had been wary of the gesture, fearing Russia would use the mission as a cover for invading Ukraine.

Miners dropped after London copper fell to near six-week lows on improving supply. Rio Tinto Ltd tumbled 2.2 percent, while Oz Minerals Ltd lost 3.1 percent after reporting a third consecutive half-year loss, the latest one being A$7.4 million.

CSL Ltd gained 2.8 percent after the pharmaceutical firm reported a 7.8 percent rise in full-year net profit to $1.3 billion.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 11.5 points to 5,518.8 by 0358 GMT. The benchmark surged 1.3 percent on Tuesday, its biggest one-day percentage gain since July 2.

A measure of Australian consumer sentiment rose strongly in August as households grew more optimistic on the near-term economic outlook and fretted less about their finances, even as wage growth stayed stuck at 16-year lows.

"The continued recovery in consumer confidence adds to other indicators in suggesting that the fall in real retail sales in the June quarter is likely to be temporary," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

Among retail stocks, Myer Holdings Ltd dipped 0.4 percent, while Harvey Norman slipped 0.2 percent.

Among other stocks reporting earnings, Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.7 percent, though still hovered at A$81.12, about A$2 below record highs, after the country's top lender by market value said its full-year cash profit grew about 12 percent to a record. National Australia Bank dipped 0.2 percent.

Echo Entertainment Group climbed 4.1 percent after the gaming company posted a 12 percent rise in core earnings, boosted by an improved performance at its Australian casinos.

Goodman Fielder Ltd lost 1.2 percent after the Australia and New Zealand supplier said it slid to a net loss in the year ended June as it booked a massive impairment charge on its struggling baking unit.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 1.70 points to 5,054.11, tracking weakness in most global share indices and keeping the bourse near a four-month low hit earlier in the week.

Losses were led by a 2 percent slide in accounting software developer Xero, which traded near a 10-month low touched at the start of the week.

But further losses were limited by a 1.7 percent rise in SkyCity, which rose to NZ$3.61, recovering from a two-year low of NZ$3.52 the previous day even as the casino operator reported a 23 percent tumble in annual profit.

"The share price had really fallen away since July, and market expectations had been quite low going into the results," said Matt Goodson, managing director at Salt Funds Management.

"But SkyCity delivered results reasonably in line with forecasts so shares have bounced on that." (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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