Australia shares slip, pulled lower by banks and Woolworths

Reuters - UK Focus

* Financial sector weak ahead of earnings results

* Woolworths drags after missing analyst estimates (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong

SYDNEY, April 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped 0.1percent on Wednesday, pulled down by banks and index heavyweightWoolworths, though gains on Wall Street overnight and a recoveryin miners helped keep the market afloat.

Woolworths Ltd dropped 2.3 percent after saying itsthird-quarter sales from continuing operations rose less thananalysts had expected.

The news hit other retailers, with Wesfarmers Ltd down 1.1 percent and electronics seller JB Hi-Fi Ltd losing 1.9 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 7.6 points at 5,479.0as of 0139 GMT. It is on track to gain 1.6 percent on the month.

The benchmark lost 0.9 percent on Tuesday, snapping sevenconsecutive sessions of gains.

Financials fell for a second session. Australia and NewZealand Banking Group and Westpac Banking Corp both slipped 0.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank of Australia (Other OTC: CBAUF - news) was flat. All three stocks had touched record highs inrecent sessions.

"The banks have had a 3 percent rally in April that weanticipated, we sold all our bank holdings in the last week,"said Shawn Hickman, managing director at Market Matters.

"I think people are maybe staying out of the longs ahead oftomorrow's numbers," referring to results due on Thursday fromANZ, the first major bank to report for the latest quarter.

Resource stocks added some support. BHP Billiton Ltd rose 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018 - news) gained 0.6percent. OceanaGold Corp soared 10.6 percent afterreporting strong earnings results and record quarterly goldproduction from the Didipio Mine.

Brambles Ltd shed 1.7 percent after the logisticscompany said sales revenue for the nine months ended March wasup 6 percent at $3.97 billion. CEO Tom Gorman said growth hadoffset the adverse short-term impact on pallet volumes from thesevere North American winter and late timing of Easter.

Aditya Birla Minerals slumped nearly 40 percent toA$0.19, its lowest since April 2009, after reporting a drop of36 percent in ore mined during the quarter compared with theprevious corresponding period.

U.S. stocks rose overnight, boosted by upbeat corporateearnings and a rebound in Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB - news) and other high-growthshares.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index climbed 0.9percent, or 47.5 points, to 5,195.8.

Accounting software firm Xero jumped 6.6 percentafter the company struck an alliance with U.S. tax outfit H&R (Berlin: 2HR.BE - news)Block, bouncing back after a steep decline over the past fewweeks. (Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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