January 12, 2017 / 6:24 AM / a year ago

Australia stocks turn lower, healthcare firms falter; NZ also down

(Updates to close)

Jan 12 (Reuters) - Australian shares revered course to finish marginally lower on Thursday as healthcare stocks followed their U.S. peers lower after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s comments on the sector, offseting gains in basic materials and energy shares.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 percent, or 4.58 points, to 5,766.9 at the close of trade. The benchmark, which was up earlier in the day, gained 0.2 percent in the previous session.

Healthcare stocks were hard hit, taking their cue from U.S. peers after Trump said pharmaceutical companies were “getting away with murder” by charging high prices.

Worst hit were sector giant CSL Ltd, which lost 2.8 percent, and Mayne Pharma, down 4 percent.

Both companies have significant U.S. exposure.

Keeping the market reasonably steady, basic materials and energy shares remained resilient thanks to a weaker dollar after Trump’s conference, which failed to offer details on his promises to boost fiscal spending and cut taxes.

Mining giants Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, and Fortescue Metals gained between 1 percent and 1.3 percent.

Rio Tinto and Fortescue also finished higher for a third straight session, while oil and gas explorers Woodside Petroleum and Santos each added around 1 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished 6 points lower at 7,063.59 as losses in telcos weighed on energy sector gains.

Telephone services firm Spark New Zealand, down 3.4 percent, was the benchmark’s biggest loser.

Electricity generator Infratil and New Zealand Refining Co, up 1.8 percent and 2.6 percent respectively, were the index’s top two gainers.

Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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