(Adds details, comments)
SYDNEY, Jan 7 Australian shares slipped 0.1
percent on Monday, paring early gains to trade flat as investors
consolidated a recent rally on U.S. data showing a steady pace
of jobs growth and brisk expansion in the services sector.
Major banks ended the day moderately higher with Australia
New Zealand Banking Group Ltd leading gains, up 0.6
percent. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the
trend, dropping 1 percent after hitting an all-time high of
A$63.70 during morning trade.
Defensives were mixed. Australia's No.1 telecommunications
provider, Telstra, lost 0.7 percent, while multi-sector
retailer Wesfarmers added 0.5 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 6.5 points lower at
4,717.3. It fell 16.9 points on Friday after reaching 19-month
highs earlier in the week.
"It just seems like the markets are entering a consolidation
phase after recent gains and with most markets trading at fresh
12-month highs," said Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG
Markets. "After having responded well to the leads from U.S.
trade and pushing to a fresh high of 4,750.7 earlier, the market
has given up all its early gains."
Mining magnate BHP Billiton Ltd was down 0.3
percent. Rival iron ore miner Rio Tinto Ltd plumbed 1.7
percent after it announced it is considering the suspension of
operations in the Northern Territory after talks with the
government over power supplies to the plant broke down last
Gold miners also ended the day weaker with Newcrest Mining
Ltd down 1.2 percent and Silverlake Ltd losing
Lynas Crop Ltd jumped 14.4 percent after it said it
expects to produce commercial rare earth products in the next
few months from its controversial plant in Malaysia after
commissioning the plant's cracking and leaching units.
Whitehaven Coal Ltd finished 0.6 percent lower. A
hoax media release on Monday that said Australia and New Zealand
Banking Group Ltd had withdrawn a A$1.2 billion ($1.25
billion) loan to Whitehaven Coal sank the miner's shares by as
much as 9 percent at one stage.
The U.S. Labor Department said non-farm payrolls grew by
155,000 jobs last month, slightly below November's level. Gains
were distributed broadly throughout the economy, from
manufacturing and construction to healthcare.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index rose 0.2
percent, or 9.8 points to 4,084.8 to close at a 5-year high.
(Reporting By Thuy Ong; Editing by Matt Driskill)