(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY Jan 10 Australian shares fell 0.2
percent in early trade as a lack of leads from Wall Street and a
fall in commodity prices sidelined investors ahead of Chinese
trade and U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due later on Friday.
Miners weighed on the index as copper prices fell to
two-week lows overnight and Chinese steel futures drifted to
near contract lows as poor demand in the world's top consumer
weighed on prices.
Heavyweights BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd
lost 1.6 percent and 2.2 percent each. World no. 4 iron
ore miner Fortescue Metals Group dropped 3.2 percent.
"Recent softness in resource stocks has been at least partly
attributable to growing concerns that the pace of economic
growth in China has been softening," Ric Spooner, chief market
analyst at CMC Markets, said in a note.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 10.2 points to 5,314.2 by
0047 GMT, hovering 140 odd points below the 4-1/2 year high of
5,457.3 hit on October 28. The benchmark rose 0.2 percent on
Thursday and is set to fall 0.7 percent for the week, snapping
three weeks of consecutive gains.
The banking sector held on to gains, helping to offset
broader market losses. Bluechip Westpac Banking Corp
and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group added 0.7
percent and 0.9 percent respectively. Mid-tier Bank of
Queensland Ltd edged 0.3 percent higher.
U.S. stocks ended little changed on Thursday in a choppy
session ahead of Friday's payrolls report, which may provide a
clue to whether the Federal Reserve will cut quantitative easing
again at its meeting this month.
Other analysts said trading would also be cautious ahead of
key China trade data due out at 0200 GMT.
Meanwhile, Twenty First Century Fox Ltd
dropped 5.1 percent after the company said it would be
delisting from the ASX.
Neon Energy Ltd crashed 71.9 percent to A$0.08, its
lowest price since 2003 after the company said testing was
completed at a gas reservoir off Vietnam, though poor
deliverability and a high carbon dioxide content meant
development would be unlikely.
Elsewhere, Integrated Research Ltd climbed 11.9
percent to five-month highs after the company said it expects
its half year profit to be in the range of A$4.4 million to
A$4.8 million, higher than the corresponding prior period.
"The big increase in stock market price earnings valuations
in developed economies over 2013 means that markets are now
potentially very sensitive to misses on earnings expectations,"
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.3
percent to 4,831.1.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)