* Fed rate cut as expected, not a big catalyst now -Brokerage
* ANZ top loser, H2 profit misses expectations
* NZ index set for biggest monthly loss since Oct ‘18
By Rashmi Ashok
Oct 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares inched lower on Thursday, dragged down by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group following weak results, while lower oil prices also weighed on the benchmark.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2% or 15.8 points to 6,673.70 by 0038 GMT. The index is set to fall 0.2% in October, after a 1.3% gain in September.
Investors shrugged off the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to cut interest rates on Wednesday. However, the central bank dropped a previous reference in its statement to “act as appropriate” to sustain economic expansion, which could signal it may hold off on future rate cuts.
“It was pretty much a non-event, just enough to sustain market at current levels. In the Aussie market, there’s been no real catalyst from the cut,” said Brad Smoling, managing director at Smoling Stockbroking.
“The question is, will it be enough heroin for the market to stay high,” he added.
Meanwhile, disappointing results from the country’s fourth-largest lender ANZ Banking Group put pressure on the benchmark.
ANZ’s stock traded as much as 3.5% lower, after second-half profit missed market expectations amid record low interest rates and high remediation costs, while the lender also reduced its franking rebate to 70% on its final dividend payout.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking Corp and National Australia Bank Ltd all fell between 0.9% and 1.5%.
Investors are now left wondering whether a similar result could be expected from other lenders, said Smoling.
A fall in oil prices also dragged the energy sector, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd trading down 0.9%, while smaller rival Santos Ltd lost 1.7%. The smaller Beach Energy Ltd fell as much as 2.1%.
Sharp gains in gold stocks offset some of the losses, as safe-haven buying picked up after U.S. interest rates were cut.
The country’s largest gold miner Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 1.3%, while Northern Star Resources gained 3%.
Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.2% or 21.4 points to 10,768.14. The index is set for a 1.4% drop in October, the biggest fall in a year.
Real estate company Kiwi Property Group was the top loser, down 4.8%, as shares re-opened for trade a day after Credit Suisse downgraded the stock’s rating to “underperform” from “neutral”.
New Zealand-listed shares of ANZ were the second-biggest losers on the Kiwi benchmark.
Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V