October 17, 2019 / 6:10 AM / a month ago

Australia shares end 5-day rally; miners drag

(Updates to close)

Oct 17 (Reuters) - Australian shares snapped a five-session rally to end lower on Thursday, dragged by miners as iron ore prices continued to slide on worries over Chinese demand.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.8% to close at 6,684.70, after gaining about 3% over the five previous trading days.

Prices of iron ore slumped more than 3% to their lowest in six weeks on Wednesday, after China’s top steelmaking city of Tangshan issued a second-level smog alert that requires mills to further limit operations.

Mining behemoths BHP Group and Rio Tinto lost 3.3% and about 3%, respectively, weighing on the benchmark.

BHP said it would make a final investment decision on its long-delayed $17 billion Jansen potash project in Canada around February 2021. It also posted a slight dip in September quarter iron ore production due to planned maintenance at a key port.

Miner South32 Ltd added 1.6% after it reported a 9% rise in coking coal production for the first quarter.

The broader sentiment was also hurt by soft U.S. retail sales data, which raised fears about the health of the world’s largest economy.

Financial stocks, which also have got high weightage on the benchmark like the miners, closed 0.4% lower, with all “Big Four banks” finishing in the red.

Bank of Queensland lost 1.6% and was the top percentage loser among the Financials after posting lower full-year earnings and trimming dividend.

However, wealth manager IOOF Holdings hit its highest in more than 10 months, after it agreed on a cheaper purchase price for Australia and New Zealand Banking Group’s ANZ.AX pension assets.

ANZ closed 0.8% lower and was the top percentage decliner among the “Big Four” lenders.

In the energy space, Australia’s two largest independent gas and oil producers Woodside Petroleum and Santos gained 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively, after posting third-quarter results.

Boosted by the quarterly results, energy index was the only major sector to finish the session in the positive territory

Santos’ production and sales volumes peaked to record levels, benefiting from higher output from its Western Australia assets, while Woodside reported flat revenue for the quarter as weak LNG prices offset higher output from some gas projects.

The New Zealand benchmark closed 0.3% lower at 11,141.86 with payments platform provider Pushpay Holdings Ltd declining more than 3%. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil and Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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