SYDNEY, Oct 31 Australian shares were flat on
Thursday morning, as gains in miners were offset by losses in
the financial sector after National Australia Bank
slumped on concerns about its British business.
NAB shares tumbled 3.5 percent to two-week lows, and last
traded down 2.3 percent. The country's top lender by assets
reported a record annual profit, but analysts said its earnings
potential had been constrained by its struggling British
"I thought it (the result) is good personally, but there is
some questions coming out of the quality of its UK business,"
said Will Cleland, associate director of institutional dealing
The NAB losses were taken as a cue by investors to book
profits from financial sector's recent rally. Top lender
Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 1.3 percent and
Westpac Banking Corp dropped 1.6 percent.
"Australian banks had a fantastic rally over the two months.
Now with the results out of the way, it's just a little bit of
natural profit taking," Cleland said.
The big four banks make up around 30 percent of the ASX and
have had a stellar year so far with share prices pushed up by
record profits and strong dividend yields.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was up 1.2 points to 5,431.7
by 0045 GMT, hovering at five-year highs. The benchmark rose 0.3
percent on Wednesday.
Investors were also cautious after Wall Street lost ground
on Tuesday as the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest policy outlook
was seen as steering clear of some of the more ultra-dovish
The U.S. central bank kept its $85 billion-a-month stimulus
plan intact but did not sound quite as alarmed about the state
of the economy as some had anticipated.
"Expectations had been for tapering to start in March or
April next year; today's call saw the street moving its
predictions to January which saw hot money exiting," said IG
market strategist Evan Lucas in a note to clients.
Support for the market came from global miners BHP Billiton
Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd, which bounced back from
earlier losses, edging up 0.3 percent and 0.8 percent
Australia's biggest supermarket Woolworths Ltd
climbed 0.9 percent after it reported a 2.5 percent in
Australian food and liquor comparable sales in the first quarter
of 2014 fiscal year.
Leighton Holdings Ltd gained 0.6 percent on news
it had been awarded A$249 million Bowen Basin coal contract.
Elsewhere, OceanaGold Corp surged 17.4 percent after
the gold miners said it expected strong production for the
Biotechnology company Mesoblast Ltd soared 12.0
percent after it said the FDA cleared a new drug trial by Teva
Pharmaceutical Industries, which uses Mesoblast's products.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index was flat at
(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang,; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)