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Australia shares falter on slips in commodity prices; NZ strong
December 23, 2016 / 1:40 AM / in 10 months

Australia shares falter on slips in commodity prices; NZ strong

Dec 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday, with gains in financials and energy offset by basic material stocks that lost traction in the wake of weak copper and Chinese iron futures prices.

Wall Street ending its Trump-fuelled rally ahead of the Christmas holiday weekend also kept sentiment subdued.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 6.3 points or 0.1 percent to 5637.9 by 0103 GMT, ending a four-session bull run.

Copper prices fell to a one-month low on Thursday on the stronger dollar and after a drop in imports by China fuelled demand worries.

Chinese steel and iron ore futures continued to pull back, shedding 4 percent on Thursday, after smog engulfing some territories in China affected trade.

Losses in both these metals, along with a strong dollar, hurt metals giant BHP Billiton, which lost 1.8 percent.

Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals followed suit, shaving off more than 2 percent each.

“The (basic materials) sector has done pretty well over the last couple of months, post (U.S. presidential) election, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of profit-taking before the holidays,” said Danial Moradi, an equity strategist with Lonsec.

Tatts, Australia’s largest betting operator, fell 3 percent when it rejected a $5.27 billion takeover bid from a consortium backed by KKR and Macquarie Group, in favour of the offer from Tabcorp Holdings.

Energy shares outperformed when overnight oil prices recovered, underpinned by strong U.S. economic data and optimism producers would abide by the agreement to limit output.

The U.S. Commerce Department issued data showing that the economy grew at 3.5 percent in the third quarter, the strongest growth rate since the third quarter of 2014.

Oil majors Woodside Petroleum rose 0.7 percent, while Oil Search added 0.4 percent.

Financials, which have rallied since Donald Trump’s election to president, continued their upward trend, with all the ”Big four’ banks higher.

ANZ Banking hit its highest in 16 months, gaining as much as 0.6 percent. The stock rose for a fifth week, out of seven weeks, after Donald Trump’s election as President of the U.S.

National Australia Bank hit a 13-month high, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose to an 11-month high, both up for a seventh straight week.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 25.12 points to 6,876.9, gaining for a fifth session, and led by industrials.

Auckland International Airport was the biggest gainer on the index, up 2.3 percent, after reporting a 12.9 percent increase in international passengers for November.

Exchange operator NZX Ltd rose a percent, while Heartland Bank gained 2 percent.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Aparajita Saxena; Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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