(Adds details on stock movements, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, March 28 Australian shares slipped 0.4
percent on Thursday, dragged down by banks, as investors shunned
long positions on the last day of trade before Easter on worries
about the Cyprus financial crisis and its consequences for the
"Whatever is happening in Europe in terms of Cyprus and the
ramifications of that, maybe a lot of traders just don't want to
be long or don't want to have positions over this long weekend,"
said Winston Sammut, investment director at Maxim Asset
Big banks all lost ground, backing off from the pervious
session's gains on upbeat comments from the Reserve Bank of
National Australia Bank Ltd was the biggest
percentage loser among the big four banks, declining 1.1
percent. Australia's No. 1 lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia
was down 0.9 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index had lost 19.5 points to trade
at 4,975.5 by 0028 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.9 percent on
Leading miners traded higher on recovering iron ore prices.
BHP Billiton Ltd added 0.4 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd
gained 1.0 percent.
Even so, IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas said in a note
that non-mining sectors had led the market higher in the first
quarter, while the resource sector's weighting had fallen to
levels not seen since mid-2007. Financial stocks, he said, now
made up 30 percent of the ASX 200, their highest weighting in a
Consumer staples were weaker, with Australia's biggest
supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd losing 1.1 percent.
Rival Coles-owner Wesfarmers Ltd fell 1.0 percent.
Blood products maker CSL ltd bucked the trend and
gained 1.0 percent, while the flagship telco company Telstra
Corp Ltd declined 0.3 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index inched down 0.1
percent to 4,407.2, after reaching a intraday high of 4,412.5.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Bluescope Steel Ltd, Australia's largest steel
maker, jumped 2.4 percent to A$4.99 after it started its $1.36
billion metal joint venture with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal
Corp after completing the sale of 50 percent of business.
* Linc Energy Ltd dived 12.4 percent to A$2.34,
after it said it had raised A$200 million in a convertible bonds
* Agriculture chemicals company Nufarm Ltd plunged
14.3 percent to A$4.09, after it posted disappointing H1 profits
and gave a downbeat outlook on Monday.
* Australian construction firm Leighton Holdings Ltd
edged up 0.2 percent to A$20.65, after it said it had
reached agreement with Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan for the
sale of about 70 percent of its telecommunications assets.
(Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Stephen Coates)