July 16, 2018 / 6:32 AM / 10 months ago

Australian and New Zealand shares fall as healthcare stocks weigh

* Financials hurt by weakening local property market

* Healthcare stocks down 1.9 pct, Aussie dollar slightly higher (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Nainan

July 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell nearly half a percent on Monday, led by losses in healthcare stocks, while soft weekend property auction results undermined banks, whose business model relies heavily on home loans.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 26.9 points to close at 6,241.5. The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent on Friday.

A confluence of mixed earnings from the big Wall Street banks and concerns stemming from a weak local auction clearance rate hurt sentiment, driving the main financial index 0.4 percent lower.

“The auction results in Australia over the weekend continued to deteriorate, that paints a picture of a lack of demand for bank products like home loans,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at CFD and FX provider AxiTrader.

The ‘Big Four’ banks led the losses with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank closing 0.8 percent and 0.7 percent lower, respectively.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark, with the healthcare index sliding 1.9 percent.

The Australian dollar appreciated slightly against the greenback.

The healthcare sector is highly reliant on exports, and earns a substantial portion of its income in the United States, and therefore benefits from a weaker Aussie.

Index heavyweight CSL Ltd fell 2.9 percent.

The Aussie mining index closed down 0.9 percent on Monday at the start of a week packed with quarterly production figures from mining and energy companies.

“The current reporting is going to be strong but the guidance is going to be key. It is going be difficult for any of these big miners to be very optimistic given the uncertainties on trade and global growth,” McKenna said.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 percent or 43.88 points to finish the session at 8,980.31.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest drags on the index, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd closing 1.8 percent lower. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Mensholong Lepcha; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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