July 16, 2018 / 2:23 AM / a year ago

Australian shares fall as financials slip on weak home sales; NZ down

* Concerns over cooling local property market hurt bank sentiment

* Materials stocks down ahead of production results

* Whitehaven rises after FY guidance

By Nikhil Nainan

July 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares opened lower on Monday with financials posting losses as weak weekend property auction results undermined banks, which rely heavily on home loans for their strong profits.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent, or 25.8 points to 6,242.6 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark slipped 0.2 percent on Friday.

The main financial index was down 0.6 percent as a blend of mixed earnings from the big Wall Street banks and concerns stemming from a weak local auction clearance rate hurt sentiment.

“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 losses on the index were led by the ‘Big Four’ banks, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking , down 0.9 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

The Aussie mining index fell 0.5 percent, in 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.

Whitehaven Coal Ltd, Australia’s biggest independent coal miner, said it expects record full-year results on the back of strong coal prices, sending its shares up as much as 3.9 percent.

The company also reported production of 20.9 million tonnes of saleable coal in the 12 months to June 30, in line with forecasts and flat on the previous year. Whitehaven was among the top gainers on the Aussie energy index on Monday.

Index heavyweight CSL Ltd gave up as much as 1.7 percent, and was the biggest drag on the benchmark.

The index of health care stocks dropped 1 percent. This defensive sector has significant exports to the United States and benefits from weakness in the Australian dollar.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.5 percent to 8,981.61.

Healthcare stocks were the biggest drag on the index, with Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd setting the tone.

Official figures out on Tuesday are expected to show New Zealand’s consumer price index rising 1.6 percent in the second quarter, but still unlikely to prompt a change in monetary policy as underlying inflation remains weak.

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Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Mensholong Lepcha; Editing by Eric Meijer

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