Aug 2 (Reuters) - Resource firms and banks pulled Australian shares into the red on Wednesday, dampened by slumping oil and commodity prices and a sell-off in financials.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 30.67 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,741.7 at 0300 GMT. The benchmark gained 0.9 percent on Tuesday.
Oil majors Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy slipped about 1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively, both set to snap two days of losses.
Oil prices dipped as inventories in the United States suddenly rose while iron ore prices fell up to 2.8 percent, its biggest intra-day dip in more than a week.
In the weak materials sector, miner BHP Billiton was in the forefront, dipping up to 1.8 percent. Fortescue Metals Group fell as much as 3.3 percent, reversing three days of gains.
Since the start of the year, the benchmark of energy stocks was down 2.3 percent while the index for financial stocks was up 0.2 percent.
The ‘Big Four’ banks lost between 0.5 to 0.9 percent.
Materials and financials had a very strong run-up on Tuesday “so perhaps there might have been a bit of a pricing misstep,” said Ben Le Brun, market analyst at OptionsXpress.
“Commodity prices were lower last night, so the market’s pulled back a little bit this morning, with most sectors in negative territory,” said Le Brun.
Activity in Australia’s services sector ran at a brisk pace in July, with a rise in new business to three-month highs encouraging firms to take on more workers, a survey showed.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 30.01 points, or 0.4 percent, to 7,759.45 by 0300 GMT. The bourse was on track for its third consecutive session of gains despite a fall in job growth in the second quarter for the country.
Healthcare stocks were in the spotlight, boosting the index the most with Ryman Healthcare and Fisher and Paykel Healthcare Corporation, rising 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent, among top gainers. (Reporting by Hanna Paul; Additional Reporting by Binisha Ben; Editing by Editing by Jacqueline Wong)