Australia shares slip - investors cautious ahead of US payroll data

Reuters - UK Focus

(Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, April 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares shed 0.1percent on Friday, pulled lower by the financial sector afterWall Street slipped overnight and investors opt for cautionahead of the U.S. payrolls report due out after local marketsclose.

Banks lost ground for another session, with Westpac Banking (Frankfurt: 854242 - news) Corp slipped 0.5 percent, Commonwealth Bank ofAustralia fell 0.3 percent, while mid-tier Bendigo andAdelaide Bank Ltd shed 0.1 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 4 points to 5,406.1 by0021 GMT. The benchmark tacked on 0.1 percent on Thursday.

A handful of defensive stocks also drifted lower, withWesfarmers Ltd down 0.5 percent while index heavyweightTelstra Corporation Ltd fell 0.2 percent.

The Australian market is trading some 60 odd points belowthe 5-1/2 year high of 5,462.3 points hit on March 7, asgeopolitical tension over Ukraine and worries about slowinggrowth in China dampened investor sentiment.

"The Australian market has tracked steadily higher eversince hitting support levels at 5,300 point mid-March," said TimRadford, global investment manager at Rivkin Securities.

The mining sector eked out modest gains to buoy the marketfrom deeper falls. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd rose 0.7percent, Iluka Resources Ltd (Other OTC: ILKAF - news) added 0.8, and Oz Minerals (Stuttgart: OXR.SG - news) Ltd jumped 2 percent.

"This run looks sustainable in the near-term as buyingmomentum across the Big Four banks gains traction and the bigminers recover from recent China slowdown fear-driven selling,"Radford said.

Hot Chili Ltd which owns copper multi-commodityprojects in Chile, xx percent. A major earthquake of magnitude8.2 struck off the coast of Chile on Tuesday.

Aspen Group Ltd soared 5.7 percent to A$1.31, a2-1/2 month high after the company announced the sale of itsSeptimus Roe office building at a price of A$91 million, in linewith its net carry value as of December 2013.

Department store operator David Jones Ltd lost 2.8percent after CEO Paul Zahra reiterated to local media thatformal talks about a merger with rival Myer Holdings Ltd are months rather than weeks away.

Australia's competition regulator said it would letTransurban Group (Other OTC: TRAUF - news) , the country's biggest toll roadowner, buy Queensland state-owned toll road owner QueenslandMotorways Ltd, concluding that a deal would not substantiallyreduce competition. Shares in Transurban added0.4 percent.

U.S. stocks slipped overnight as caution set in ahead ofFriday's monthly jobs data.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.1percent to 5,114.5.

(Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Eric Meijer)

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