June 29, 2018 / 3:07 AM / 3 months ago

Australian shares fall on weakness in health care stocks; NZ rises

* Aussie shares set to end 3 weeks of consecutive gains

* Health care stocks account for most of the losses

* Energy stocks lose steam as fiscal year-end nears

By Aditya Soni

June 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares were pulled lower by a selloff in health care stocks on Friday, with investors cautious as the fiscal year ends on June 30.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.2 percent or 9.80 points in thin trade to 6,205.40 by 0226 GMT. The benchmark jumped 0.3 percent on Thursday.

The health care index was on track for its fifth consecutive losing session on Friday, erasing some of the strong gains it had registered last week.

Health care companies, which earn a substantial portion of their income in the United States, rose 5.2 percent last week thanks to the weakened Australian dollar.

Biotherapeutics producer CSL Ltd slipped as much as 1.6 percent, its biggest intraday percentage loss in more than five weeks and the biggest drag on the benchmark.

Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report said index-heavyweight CSL had performed very strongly of late although its current weakness had driven the broader sector lower.

Sonic Healthcare Ltd dipped 1.6 percent to its lowest since June 19, while Healthscope Ltd dropped 1.6 percent.

Energy stocks, which were headed for their third month of gains on firming oil prices, ran out of steam on Friday as market participants considered their positions.

“Being the end of the month and also the end of the fiscal year, I think investors are a bit wary of putting further money into a sector that has already delivered strong performance over the last three months and 12 months more broadly,” said Conway.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd slipped 0.4 percent, while Santos Ltd dropped 0.6 percent.

Major banks also traded lower, with Macquarie Group Ltd dropping 1.7 percent after rising to record high in the previous session, while National Australia Bank Ltd dipped 0.2 percent.

Fortescue Metals Group Ltd fell 2.6 percent to near three-month low, after small iron ore miner Atlas Iron endorsed a A$390 million ($287 million) buyout from billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting.

Fortescue, controlled by billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, has built a 20 percent stake in Atlas. Earlier this week he asked a regulator to halt the Rinehart buyout, seeking more information on the proposed deal.

In direct contrast to ASX shares, New Zealand’s healthcare stocks were the dominant gainers. Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd jumped 0.9 percent, while Ryman Healthcare Ltd firmed 0.3 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index gained 0.2 percent or 20.77 points to 9,019.56.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Eric Meijer

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