SYDNEY, March 11 Australian shares traded
sideways on Tuesday morning, following a dip on Wall Street,
with smaller iron ore miners easing further and a pullback in a
business conditions survey keeping investors cautious.
Global miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd
steadied from big losses in the previous session,
rising 0.1 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.
But smaller iron ore miners were under pressure after
Chinese steel and iron ore futures slumped to their lowest
levels ever on Monday.
"We saw another big fall in iron ore prices last night,"
said Rivkin Securities director Shannon Rivkin. "If iron ore
prices dip below expectations, you are going to see a lot of
Fortescue Metals Group lost 1.2 percent, adding to Monday's
9 percent tumble, Atlas Iron Ltd dropped 2.7 percent
and Mt Gibson Iron Ltd lost 2.5 percent.
A surprise drop in exports swung China's trade balance into
deficit last month and amplified fears of a slowdown in the
world's No. 2 economy.
"Having seen Chinese credit overnight halving from the month
before and well below the estimates, the slowdown is only going
to accelerate," IG market strategist Evan Lucas said in a note.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was virtually steady, easing
just 1.2 points to 5,410.3 by 0044 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.9
percent on Monday.
Banks mostly had a better run, offsetting the softness in
the resources sector. Commonwealth Bank of Australia
edged up 0.3 percent and Westpac Banking Corp rose 0.5
Australia's biggest telecommunications company Telstra Corp
Ltd rose 1.1 percent, with investors relocating to
Shares in Leighton Holdings Ltd dropped 2.9
percent, after surging 11 percent in the previous session on an
offer from majority holder, Germany's Hochtief AG.
The Australian Securities and Exchange Commission is
reviewing share trading in Leighton, which jumped significantly
last week ahead of Hochtief's $1 billion offer to boost its
A measure of Australian business conditions pulled back
sharply in February from the three-year highs touched the
previous month, although firms surveyed remained relatively
upbeat on the outlook for the economy.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.4
percent to 5,098.0.
(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Richard Pullin)