(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, Sept 26 Australian shares slipped 0.3
percent on Thursday after Wall Street lost ground overnight as
investors fretted over looming fiscal deadlines, though a rise
in metals prices helped to limit broader losses.
Financials fell after posting modest gains in the previous
session. National Australia Bank fell 0.8 percent while
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped 0.5
percent. Westpac Banking Corp lost 0.6 percent.
The Big Four banks have added an average of 27 percent each
to their share price so far this year, outperforming the broader
market, which has risen 13.1 percent.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 12.7 points to
5,263.2 by 0119 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.7 percent on Wednesday
after three days of losses.
A handful of defensives also lost ground, with consumer
staples retailer Wesfarmers Ltd shedding 0.3 percent
while biotechnology firm CSL Ltd slid 1.3 percent,
touching 6-week lows.
The local bourse took a lead from U.S. stocks, which fell
overnight as the S&P 500 registered a fifth day of losses, its
longest losing streak since the end of 2012.
Investors are worried about two looming Washington
deadlines: before Oct. 1 Congress needs to pass stop-gap funding
for federal agencies and by Oct. 17 it must raise the federal
borrowing limit to avoid a debt default by the United States.
"We are entering a seasonally weak period for stocks, being
the end of September and October," said Tim Radford, global
analyst at Rivkin Securities in a note to clients.
"In the backdrop there are major fundamental catalysts that
could send stocks sharply lower over the next month," Radford
The benchmark index has hovered around the 5,250 point level
for most of this week as investors remained cautious in the face
of U.S. uncertainty, and trading remained subdued.
"Volumes remain very light, it's been very quiet" said
Martin Lakos, division director at Macquarie Bank.
Elsewhere a rise in metals prices helped bluechip miners eke
out a small gain. BHP Billiton Ltd gained 0.4 percent
while Rio Tinto Ltd climbed 1.1 percent after copper
edged up overnight as solid demand from China helped stem three
consecutive days of falls.
The market was also helped by a modest gain among insurance
companies, with Suncorp Group Ltd edging 0.2 percent
Linc Energy Ltd soared 11.3 percent to near
six-week highs of A$1.72, after the company issued a statement
saying its Umiat Alaska core evaluation has confirmed high
quality oil-saturated reservoir rock.
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.3 percent
or 13.3 points to trade at 4,751.4.
(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)