March 20, 2013 / 1:00 AM / 5 years ago

Australia shares down 0.9 pct on weaker miners, caution on Cyprus

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
    SYDNEY, March 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 0.9
percent in late morning trade on Wednesday, with weaker miners
dragging the index, as investors fret about Cyprus and the
possible effect on the euro zone should the island nation
    "That negative sentiment is flowing through to the
Asia-Pacific region. This is despite the fact that last night's
moves were actually good news for markets," said CMC Markets
chief market strategist Michael McCarthy.
    on Tuesday Cyprus's parliament overwhelmingly rejected a
proposed levy on savings accounts, throwing an Eurogroup plan to
rescue the island's stricken banks into disarray. 
    "Until we see a package in Cyprus that's credible,
uncertainty is likely to weigh on share prices generally in
Australia," McCarthy added.
    The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 44.8 points
at 4,942.6 by 0045 GMT. The benchmark dropped 0.6 percent and
closed at a one-month low on Tuesday.
    Blue chip miners BHP Billiton dropped 2.7 percent
and Rio Tinto fell 3.2 percent, after Goldman Sachs cut
its price targets on the stocks due to concerns about an
oversupply in iron ore markets. Fortescue Metals Group 
plunged 3.9 percent. 
    Earlier on Tuesday, big iron ore miners cautioned that China
can no longer be counted on for unchecked opportunity, warning
of volatile markets and softer prices as growth in China's steel
production slows. 
    Financials were also weaker, with the country's biggest
lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia losing 0.6
    Consumer staples held their ground as funds fled risky
assets. Supermarket chain Woolworths Ltd gained 0.7
percent, and Coles-owner Wesfarmers Ltd was flat. 
    New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index edged up 0.3
percent to 4,360.0.
    * Australia's No.2 department store David Jones 
rose 3.7 percent to A$3.07, after it posted a 13.5 percent fall
in first-half earnings and said it was making good progress with
its turnaround strategy. 
    (0042 GMT)

    * Australian engineering firm Bradken Ltd fell 4.7
percent to A$6.83, after it said on Tuesday that an Australian
court had ruled against the company regarding the accused "bid
rigging" action in a private equity deal and ordered it to pay
damages of $22.4 million. 
    (0041 GMT)
    * Agribusiness company Elders dropped 3.9 percent
to A$0.13, after it received a takeover offer from larger peer
Ruralco Holdings Ltd for its rural services
    (0040 GMT)

   * Gold miner Focus Minerals surged 5 percent to
A$0.02, as the precious metal stayed strong on lingering
uncertainty surrounding Europe's financial stability. 
    (0040 GMT)

 (Reporting By Maggie Lu Yueyang and Michael Sin; Editing by
Eric Meijer)

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