SYDNEY Nov 16 Australian shares slipped 0.1
percent on Friday, with bank stocks falling on worries about the
U.S. fiscal stand-off and the eurozone debt crisis, but higher
iron ore prices and optimism about China's growth outlook lent
Markets have been fretting that the U.S. economy could
contract again if no deal is reached in Washington to avoid the
"fiscal cliff" - large, automatic budget cuts and tax increases
that begin to take effect in the new year.
But losses were limited on Friday after China announced that
its economy is turning the corner and is likely to meet its
growth target for the year. Industrial output, exports and
retail sales all beat expectations in October.
Top lender Westpac Banking Corp led banking losses,
dropping 1.3 percent. National Australia Bank Ltd
bucked the trend, rising 0.5 percent.
Bellwether miners were mixed. BHP Billiton Ltd
slipped 0.3 percent, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd was up
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was 4.6 points lower
at 4,344.7 by 0036 GMT. It fell 0.9 percent on Thursday.
Australian shares are down 5.1 pecent from 15-month highs
reached in October.
"We were expecting the market to be a bit weaker today
because just sentiment in general is pretty poor," said Cameron
Peacock, market analyst at IG Markets.
"We've had a terrible last week and a half."
Some defensive stocks gained, with blood products maker CSL
Ltd jumping 0.8 percent, supermarket retailer
Wesfarmers Ltd up 0.7 percent and Australia's No. 1
telecommunications provider Telstra rising 0.4 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched up 1.7
points to 3,953.2.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE:
* Nufarm Ltd rose 0.3 percent to A$5.42 after it
said it was successful in a major aspect of a dispute against
previous owners of the Brazil business related to
pre-acquisition tax liabilities and associated indemnities.
* Whitehaven Coal Ltd climbed 1.4 percent to A$2.75
after the company announced a decision to scale back its
business development unit and Brisbane presence.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)