(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Jan 9 Australian shares slipped 0.2
percent on Thursday as falling commodities prices hit resource
stocks and top-tier banking stocks fell, however news of an
uptick in retail sales helped offset broader losses.
Bluechip miners weighed on the index as copper fell
overnight on a firmer dollar and concerns about economic
recovery in top metal consumer China.
BHP Billiton Ltd fell 0.4 percent while OZ Minerals
Ltd lost 1.4 percent.
The Big Four banks also lost ground with Westpac Banking
Corp slipped 0.5 percent and Australia and New Zealand
Banking Group fell 0.4 percent. The Commonwealth Bank
of Australia was trading flat.
The Big Four banks had a stellar year in 2013, rising
between 25.1 percent and 39.3 percent each in share price,
underpinned by high dividend yields and record profits.
"Some analysts feel the banks are prime selling targets,"
said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in a note to clients.
"Credit Suisse is listing Westpac among its top banking
stocks to short in 2014."
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 8.7 points to 5,307.4 by
0053 GMT, its fifth consecutive session of falls. The benchmark
slipped 1 point on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index ended nearly
flat on Wednesday a equities markets had a muted reaction to the
minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's most recent meeting.
"Investors are digesting the comments made by the Fed in the
minutes, also the fact that tapering for the first time will be
in full force in January, so I think people are holding or
taking money off the table," said Lucinda Chan, division
director at Macquarie Bank.
"We had a very strong move at the end of last year."
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed an
uptick of 0.5 percent in retail turnover for November, compared
to a forecast of 0.3 percent.
Consumer retail staples Woolworths Ltd and
Wesfarmers Ltd added 0.7 percent and 0.2 percent
Elsewhere, HFA Holdings Ltd soared 18.7 percent to
seven-month highs of A$0.92 after the holding company for global
funds management said it expects improved earnings results for
the first half of the 2014 financial year.
Nucoal Resources Ltd slumped 17.2 percent after the
company said it is preparing to lodge a submission to the New
South Wales Government arguing as to why its Doyles Creek
exploration licence should not be cancelled.
Qantas Airways Ltd slipped 0.3 percent as credit
ratings agency Moody's downgraded its rating to Ba2 from Baa3
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.5
percent to 4,804.8.
French food group Danone said in a statement it
will start legal action against New Zealand dairy exporter
Fonterra following a false alert that sparked the
recall of infant formula. Shares in Fonterra lost 1.7 percent
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)