SYDNEY, Dec 6 Australian shares dropped to an
eight week-low on Friday morning, as persistent speculation of
an imminent reduction in U.S. stimulus kept investors nervously
awaiting a crucial U.S. jobs report later in the day.
The financial sector was on the backfoot, with Australia's
"big four" banks all dropping around one percent. Commonwealth
Bank of Australia fell 1.0 percent, and Australia and
New Zealand Banking Group Ltd slid 1.2 percent.
"The predominant global theme at the moment is that the US
economy is recovering," said Craig James, chief equities
economist at Commonwealth Securities.
"For most investors they don't need to do anything today,
they are sitting on the sidelines waiting for US job figures."
The market took its lead from a weak session on Wall Street
after stronger than expected U.S. GDP data kept alive
expectations that the Federal Reserve will start to slow its
stimulus sooner rather than later.
"In typical post-GFC style, the US market sold off after
better-than-expected market data signalled that the Fed might go
back into 'Taper-on' rhetoric. When will this world return to
normal?" said Rivkin CEO Scott Schuberg in a note to clients.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.2 percent or 11.1
points to 5,186.9 by 0137 GMT, after hitting the weakest level
of 5,154.6 since Oct. 14. The benchmark closed down 1.4 percent
Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd pulled back 0.2
percent, and rival Rio Tinto ltd edged up 0.2 percent.
Consumer stocks staged a modest bounce back, with top
supermarket Woolworths Ltd adding 0.7 percent and
Coles-owner Wesfarmers ltd edging up 0.2 percent.
Meanwhile, Qantas Airways Ltd was put on a trading
halt after the Australian carrier shocked investors on Thursday
with a loss warning, sending its stock plunging
Friday's trading halt came ahead of Standard & Poor's
decision to cut the airline's credit ratings to junk grade with
a negative outlook.
Broadcaster Nine Entertainment dropped 1.0 percent
on its trading debut after raising A$631 million from its
initial public offering.
Flight Center Travel Group Ltd tumbled 5.9 percent,
after a court upheld Australian Competition and Consumer
Commission's case against the company, accusing it of attempting
to fix airfare prices.
Oil and gas producer Neon Energy Limited surged
17.9 percent after its well in Vietnam was confirmed as a
potentially significant gas discovery.
IG market strategist Even Lucas said the Australian market
may struggle to post gains in December.
"I believe the Santa rally may not come this year, as profit
taking, Fed fears, questioning of company earnings coupled with
general sentiment all points to at best a flat month," Lucas
said, noting volumes would drop away in the lead to the
New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent
(Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)