* Miners weigh on the index, modest uptick in defensives
* Iraq crisis, Wall St losses check sentiment
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Swati Pandey and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, June 25 Australian shares
slipped to a near two-week low on Wednesday, with miners and
banking stocks losing ground as a deepening crisis in Iraq
checked risk appetite.
The Mining sector was the biggest drag with BHP Billiton
, Arium and Fortescue Metals Group
falling more than 1 percent after Australia revised down its
2015 iron ore and metallurgical coal price forecasts.
Losses on Wall Street overnight put a dampener on trading,
as concerns about the violence in Iraq eclipsed better U.S.
That pushed the S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.55 percent
or 29.28 points to 5,403.9 by 0240 GMT, after earlier slipping
to 5,378.8 points - its lowest since June 13. The market closed
0.4 percent lower on Tuesday.
The benchmark hit a near 6-year high of 5,536.1 on April 29,
but has since drifted lower as a rout in iron ore prices,
geopolitical tension in Ukraine and unrest in Iraq hit investor
sentiment. It has fallen 2 percent so far in June.
"We are near the bottom of the recent trading range," said
Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. "So,
the potential from here is a bit of a bounce. Given that we are
near the bottom of that range I think we might have a positive
The 'Big Four' Australian banks - National Australia Bank
, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group,
Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia
- traded 0.2 percent to 0.4 percent lower.
Shares in Scentre Group Ltd, shopping centre giant
Westfield Group's new Australia and New
Zealand company, debuted lower while those of Westfield Corp
rose when the newly restructured firm relisted on
A handful of consumer staples, utilities and telcos stocks
bucked the trend. "Clearly those stocks with transparent
earnings and straight forward businesses are more appealing to
investors in the current volatile trading environment," McCarthy
Outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu rose slightly,
while Treasury Wine Estates was up more than 4 percent
after announcing a change in its business model.
New Zealand stocks were flat with the benchmark NZX-50 index
down 6.47 points or 0.1 percent at 5,114.74.
Among the bigger moves once again was accounting software
company Xero Ltd bouncing up 4.2 percent to NZ$27.00.
Market regulators queried recent sharp moves in Xero's price
on Tuesday, but the company said it had no new information for
The latest debutant on the NZX, utilities software developer
Gentrack Group Ltd listed at NZ$2.58, a 7.5 percent
premium to an issue price NZ$2.40. It last traded at NZ$2.53.
($1 = 102.0500 Japanese Yen)