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Australia shares soft on lower Wall Street; NZ rises
March 21, 2017 / 1:33 AM / 8 months ago

Australia shares soft on lower Wall Street; NZ rises

March 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares were tepid on Tuesday, taking their cue from Wall Street, which fell on concerns that President Donald Trump’s promises of tax cuts will take longer than expected.

The U.S. stock market’s rally since Trump’s election has faltered in recent weeks as investors fret about a lack of clarity on his proposals to reform taxes and cut regulation.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.1 percent at 5,774.40 by 0104 GMT.

“The overall driver is just a weaker lead from U.S. markets and probably an overall situation where there’s not a lot of good news recently,” said Ric Spooner, ‎Chief Market Analyst at CMC Markets.

There is “pressure on some of the sectors, related to higher interest rates, with banks and the real estate sectors both down on speculation that there may be further tightening of lending standards towards debtors in the real estate markets.”

Two of the country’s “Big Four” banks, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corp, had raised interest rates on residential investments last week.

Financial and real estate stocks were the biggest drag on the index.

The ASX 200 financials index hit its lowest in two weeks, with Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia falling 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Real estate stocks Scentre Group shed 1.1 percent and Goodman Group Pty Ltd fell 0.9 percent.

Meanwhile, gold stocks jumped 1 percent as prices of the precious metal hit two-week highs due to the U.S. dollar hovering near a six-week low, extending last week’s weakness following recent interest-rate guidance from the U.S. Federal Reserve

Gold is sensitive to falling interest rates, which reduces the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

Newcrest Mining Ltd, Evolution Mining Ltd and St Barbara Ltd gained between 0.9 percent and 2.8 percent.

Airline operator Virgin Australia gained 1.3 percent, after it said it would run five return flights a week between the city of Melbourne and Hong Kong.

Cleaning and catering services provider Spotless Group Holdings Ltd jumped 45.5 percent after Downer EDI made an offer to buy Spotless shares it does not already own for A$1.27 bln.

Shares in Downer were in a trading halt.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 percent, or 23.12 points, to 7,080.17.

Material and consumer staples drove the index higher, with Fletcher Building Ltd rising 1.5 percent, while a2 Milk Company Ltd gained 4.5 percent.

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Additional reporting by Christina Martin; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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