REFILE-Australian shares slip as iron ore hits 5-year lows

Thu Sep 4, 2014 10:33pm EDT

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* ASX 200 slips as resources hit by iron ore rout

* 78 shares higher, 105 shares lower, 17 unchanged

* Volumes light as investors stay on sidelines

By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares dipped 0.2 percent on Friday with the resource sector hit by a rout in iron ore prices and sentiment hurt by Wall Street's decline, though an uptick by defensive stocks offset losses.

Miners also lost ground as spot iron ore prices fell to their lowest in nearly five years. Global iron ore miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd lost 1.2 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

The country's top lender by assets, National Australia Bank declined 0.5 percent while Westpac Banking Corp , Australia's second biggest bank by market value, was flat.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 13.5 points to 5,617.8 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark, which shed 0.4 percent on Thursday, was down 0.1 percent for the week.

The benchmark sunk to a trough of 5,425.2 on Aug. 8 but has since jumped some 200 points on the back of a mixed earnings season to hit a six-year peak of 5,679.5 on Aug. 21. The local bourse has been trading sideways since, as many investors sat on the sidelines hoping geopolitical tensions would ease.

"We won't know what will lead the market because all recent indicators aren't very clear and quite mixed," said Biyi Cheng, head of Asia-Pacific dealing at City Index, referring to mixed unemployment and Chinese data.

"That's why the market would like to stay sideways - not much money is flowing in to give it direction."

Volumes in morning trade were low, with 187.3 million shares trading hands by 0202 GMT, compared to a five-day daily moving average of 420.8 million shares.

Some top 20 stocks on the ASX 200 underpinned sentiment, with Wesfarmers Ltd adding 0.4 percent, while Australia's biggest telecommunications provider Telstra Corporation Ltd, edged 0.1 percent higher.

G8 Education Ltd jumped 3.2 percent to an all-time highs of A$5.60 after saying it has settled 14 childcare and education centres, with the acquisitions funded from existing cash reserves.

Elders Ltd plunged 6.7 percent after selling its 50 percent interest in AWH Pty Ltd to DP World Australia for A$30 million plus 50 percent of the cash at bank held by AWH.

New Zealand stocks were modestly firmer with the benchmark NZX-50 index gaining 0.2 percent to a one week high of 5,243.17.

Among the top stocks, retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare Ltd rose 1.8 percent to NZ$8.00. Power company Contact Energy Ltd and Auckland International Airport Ltd both gained 0.9 percent, which offset a 2.9 percent fall for software company Xero Ltd.

Small-and-mid cap stocks showed some of the strongest gains with AWF Group Ltd, which hires out temporary staff, up 6.9 percent to NZ$2.65 after it said it expected to report a solid lift in earnings and profit.

Retailer Briscoe Group Ltd was at a record high of NZ$3.00, up 3.5 percent, as it basked in the previous day's record first half profit, and bio-technology firm Pacific Edge extended the previous day's gains, rising a further 6.7 percent to NZ$0.96.

The part-privatised state power companies Genesis Energy Ltd , Mighty River Power Ltd and Meridian Energy Ltd were also solid performers, gaining between 1.2 and 2.8 percent. (Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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