October 3, 2017 / 1:26 AM / a year ago

Australia shares fall, QBE Insurance hit by profit warning; NZ down

Oct 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares declined on Tuesday, pressured by consumer and energy firms though QBE insurance was the biggest drag as its stock tumbled after the company said rising disaster claims will hurt earnings.

Materials also weighed on the S&P/ASX 200 index, which was off 21.13 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,708.3 by 0057 GMT.

Energy stocks were pressured after oil prices fell more than 2 percent as a rise in U.S. drilling and higher OPEC output put the brakes on a rally that helped prices notch their biggest third-quarter gain in 13 years.

The energy index was down 1.22 percent as Woodside Petroleum and Beach Energy declined 0.8 percent and 5.5 percent respectively. Beach had risen as much as 19.4 percent on Monday on its first day of trade after acquiring assets from Origin Energy for $1.25 billion.

BHP Billiton, which has significant oil exposure was down 0.3 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals declined over 0.3 percent each.

QBE Insurance fell as much as 5.2 percent, its lowest since November 2016, after the company said it increased its allowance for large individual risk and catastrophe claims to $1.75 billion after taking into account impact of hurricanes in the Atlantic and earthquakes in Mexico.

It also expects a pre-tax impact of about $600 million to its 2017 earnings from the hurricanes.

Investors were also watching out for the Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy decision slated at 0330 GMT. The central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates on hold at a record low of 1.5 percent with the focus on its assessment of the economy and how that could impact is monetary policy.

Decline in consumer stock also weighed on the index with Wesfarmers and Woolworths down 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.

“Consumer sentiment numbers and retail spending figures in the last quarter aren’t painting a particularly bright picture for that sector,” said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stock broking for Argonaut in Perth.

“Particularly for retailers, they are facing a lot of competition with ALDI arriving in the scene and starting to take market shares for Coles and Myer.”

TechnologyOne was the worst performer on the index, down 13.6 percent, its biggest one-day loss in over 8 years, after the company cut its full-year profit guidance.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat, down 0.04 percent, or 2.93 points, to 7.925.87 with a climb in energy stocks offset by the losses in the consumer space.

Contact Energy gained 0.9 percent, while A2 milk was down 1.4 percent.

Data out earlier in the day showed that New Zealand business confidence in the third quarter sank to an 18-month low, hit by a turbulent election campaign with uncertainty likely to drag on as politicians battled to form a government.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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