MELBOURNE, Jan 31 Australian shares slipped 0.3
percent early on Thursday on caution over stalled U.S. economic
growth, with investors taking a breather following the local
market's 10-day winning streak, the longest in more than nine
U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said
economic growth had stalled and data showed U.S. gross domestic
product had unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter.
Australian miners and retailers were lower, pulling the
market down from 21-month highs after a 5.3 percent gain in
"Certainly at some point the share market faces a correction
or a period of consolidation," said Craig James, a strategist at
CommSec. "In the coming week investor optimism faces a test with
the start of the Australian earnings season."
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 13 points
at 4,883.5 by 0100 GMT. It rose 0.2 percent on Wednesday to a
21-month closing high.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 3.2
points to 4,250.7.
Still, CommSec revised up its forecasts for the Australian
share market in 2013, projecting the S&P/ASX 200 index will rise
to 5,300 points by the year-end, with an annual gain of 14
"It does appear on current developments that we were too
pessimistic," James said.
"Certainly 2013 has started with an air of optimism. U.S.
politicians show some willingness to deal with problems, no
fresh issues have emerged in Europe and the Chinese economy is
exhibiting firmer growth. Volatility has receded with investors
keen to put cash to work in other asset classes," he said.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE:
* Supermarket operator Woolworths Ltd fell 1.7
percent to A$31.10 after it reported a 2.5 percent rise in
second-quarter same-store food and liquor sales and maintained
earnings guidance for the year.
The result missed forecasts for a 2.8 percent rise,
according to a Reuters survey of seven analysts, and compared
with 3.9 percent growth in food and liquor sales at rival
Wesfarmers via its Coles supermarkets.
* Pharmaceutical company Pharmaxis plunged 40
percent after it received a negative recommendation from a
Committee advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on the
use of Bronchitol for cystic fibrosis patients in the United
* Whitehaven Coal fell as much as 4.3 percent after
it warned its earnings would be hit by problems with two sales
contracts, weak prices, a strong Australian dollar and
disruptions from a train derailment.
(Reporting by; Editing by Chris Gallagher)