August 10, 2018 / 3:04 AM / 8 months ago

Australia shares inch down amid pressure on oil prices; NZ up

* Fibre cement company James Hardie Industries falls on outlook

* Weakness in oil prices drags on energy stocks

* Financials gain, led by the ‘Big Four’ banks

* In NZ, Fonterra Co-operative Group drops as much as 3.1 pct

By Aaron Saldanha

Aug 10 (Reuters) - Australian shares edged down on Friday as oil price weakness dragged on energy stocks and as the outlook for earnings from James Hardie Industries, the world’s top fibre cement producer, disappointed investors.

The S&P/ASX 200 index had slipped climbing 0.5 percent on Thursday.

However, it was on track to end the week about 1 percent higher in what would be its best week in five.

ASX-listed shares in James Hardie Industries PLC dropped up to 9.1 percent, with the company saying it expected to book $300 million to $340 million in adjusted net operating profit in fiscal 2019. The midpoint of that falls below an average of analyst estimates at $331.86 mln, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“With rising interest rates, it is going to get harder for them going forward and so the market is reading into that,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

James Hardie supplies fibre cement for construction projects domestically and in places such as the United States.

Meanwhile, Australia’s energy index slipped as much as 1.6 percent on Friday, with crude prices pressured by worries over demand as the Sino-U.S. trade dispute barrels on.

Beach Energy Ltd, an oil and gas explorer and producer, dropped 3 percent to lead losses on the energy benchmark.

Australia’s biggest power producer AGL Energy fell as much as 2.8 percent to extend Thursday’s 4.1 percent loss, hit after it forecast minimal profit growth in fiscal 2019.

But financial stocks helped stem losses on the S&P/ASX 200 index, with the country’s ‘Big Four’ banks driving up the sector index as much as 0.3 percent.

“As global trade war worries rise, we have seen money come out of Asia and go into Australia and New Zealand, which has been (helping) the financials,” said Somasundaram.

He added that banks like Commonwealth Bank of Australia , up 0.2 percent, were in “value territory”.

Global miner Rio Tinto, whose shares traded ex-dividend on Thursday, fell 0.4 percent, while BHP traded little changed.

In New Zealand, the local benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index crept up 0.4 percent to 8,975.22, with gains in telecom stocks overcoming losses in materials and health care stocks.

The world’s largest dairy exporter, Fonterra Co-operative Group Limited, cut its earnings guidance and slightly lowered its forecast milk payout price, sending the stock down as much as 3.1 percent to its lowest intraday level since September, 2015. For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru Editing by Joseph Radford)

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