* ASX 200 slips 0.3 percent to 2-1/2-week lows
* Australia index set for fourth session of losses
* 71 shares higher, 115 shares lower, 14 shares unchanged
(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)
By Thuy Ong and Gyles Beckford
SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Aug 6 Australian shares eased
0.3 percent on Wednesday, falling to 2-1/2-week lows with blue
chip stocks pulling the market lower as Wall Street slumped and
investors were unnerved by geopolitical tensions.
Among top stocks on the ASX 200, Westpac Banking Corp
shed 0.5 percent, while National Australia Bank
lost 0.7 percent. Food grocer Woolworths Ltd
declined 0.7 percent, while blood products maker CSL Ltd
dropped 1.1 percent.
Australia's top telecommunications provider Telstra
Corporation Ltd helped buoy the market, adding 0.6
percent to buck the trend.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slid 18.7 points to 5,499.9 by
0222 GMT, set for its fourth consecutive session of losses.
The benchmark hit a six-year high of 5,644.2 on July 31, but
has been routed in recent sessions in tandem with Wall Street as
investors fret that the U.S. Federal Reserve may raise interest
rates sooner than expected.
"We're off to a bit of a tough start this month anyway, you
have to remember we were up 4.5 percent last month, so July was
the best month for the Aussie market in about a year," said
Steven Daghlian, market analyst at Commonwealth Securities in
"There's no shortage of geopolitical conerns at the moment,
Russia, Ukraine, Middle East, I think that's one thing that's
keeping investors on edge too."
For August, the ASX 200 has lost 2.3 percent so far.
U.S. stocks ended down on Tuesday, nose-diving in the
afternoon as concerns mounted over escalating tensions in
Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Russia has
gathered military forces at the border with Ukraine to either
put pressure on the neighbouring country or to enter it.
Elsewhere, the transportation services sector helped cap
losses with Transurban Group adding 1.5 percent after
it posted a rise of 12.9 percent in toll and other road revenue
earnings in the previous session. Sydney Airport
Ltd edged 0.2 percent higher, while Asciano Ltd
rose 0.7 percent.
Orica Ltd plumbed 2.3 percent to 3-week lows of
A$20.87 after the company said it intends to separate its
chemicals division either through a demerger or sale, and has
received enquiries from third parties expressing preliminary
Adelaide Brighton Ltd gained 1.3 percent after
saying it has acquired two integrated aggregates and premixed
concrete businesses located in South Australia and Queensland.
Vision Eye Institute Ltd tumbled 8.3 percent to
near 3-week lows of A$0.66 after saying it would continue to
defend allegations brought against it regarding debts owed.
New Zealand stocks gave back the gains of the previous
session with the benchmark NZX 50 index down 0.2 percent
to 5,090.80, having dipped to a near-four month low before it
trimmed its losses.
Price falls outnumbered the rises two-to-one, with software
company Xero, a top-10 stock, falling 3.6 percent to
NZ$24.09, a two-week low.
Power generator and retailer Contact Energy was
down 0.9 percent to NZ$5.50.
Partly offsetting the falls were medical equipment maker
Fisher and Paykel Ltd, rising 1.3 percent to a near
two-month high of NZ$4.81, and Fonterra Shareholders' Fund
up 1.3 percent at NZ$6.18.
The latest auction by Fonterra showed a further 8.4 percent
fall in prices, but the fund is based on the dividend stream
from Fonterra's consumer operations which benefit from lower raw
(Editing by Jacqueline Wong)