September 19, 2017 / 7:03 AM / in a year

Australia shares pulled under by real estate stocks; NZ up

(Updates to close)

By Chris Thomas

Sept 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended slightly lower on Tuesday, dampened by a sell-off in real estate stocks and top lenders including Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.1 percent, or 6.999 points, to 5,713.6 at the close of trade. The benchmark rose 0.5 percent on Monday.

Real estate stocks accounted for more than half the losses on the index, with industrial property developer Goodman Group Pty Ltd falling 2.2 percent to its lowest in more than a week, and shopping center developer Westfield Corp dropping 2.1 percent to post a near three-week closing low.

The sell-off in real-estate stocks was probably linked to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s September meeting minutes highlighting rising household debt, said Mathan Somasundaram, a market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

Minutes of the meeting showed the central bank remained worried about rising household debt and a strong local dollar. Growth in housing debt has outpaced incomes, a result that threatens economy-wide spending.

Among financial stocks, Commonwealth Bank of Australia retreated from a three-week high to close 0.5 percent lower, while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group stayed afloat, ending up 0.1 percent.

TPG Telecom trimmed some gains to end 5.2 percent higher, at a two-week closing high, after full-year net profit climbed 9 percent to beat analysts’ forecasts.

Meanwhile, investors will also be watchful of a two-day meeting beginning Tuesday where the U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to take another step toward policy normalisation and announce plans to begin unwinding its $4.2 trillion portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is seen holding interest rates steady after raising twice this year.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up 0.1 percent, or 5.82 points, to finish the session at 7,764.53.

Synlait Milk led the gains, rising 5.5 percent to a record close after its full-year net profit climbed 12 percent.

Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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