Australia shares dip on miners, Caltex helps pare losses

August 25, 2014

* ASX 200 shares off 6-year highs, set to snap 7-sessiongain

* 82 shares higher, 96 shares lower, 20 shares unchanged (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Thuy Ong and Naomi Tajitsu

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, August 25 (Reuters) – Australian shareslost 0.3 percent on Monday, slipping from six-year highs as WallStreet lost ground and iron ore hit a two-month low draggingminers lower.

An uptick in the earnings of oil company Caltex Ltd, however, helped temper losses among energy stocks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 15.1 points to 5,630.5 by0223 GMT. The benchmark edged 0.1 percent higher on Friday, itsseventh consecutive session of gains and its longest streaksince mid-July. The ASX 200 gained 1.4 percent for the week, itssecond straight week of rises.

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower on Friday as Ukraine-Russiatensions reignited and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen saidthe Fed needed to move with caution on when to raise interestrates even as economic data shows improvements.

Iron ore dropped below $92 to its lowest since June, hittingstocks in the resource sector. Among top global miners, BHPBilliton Ltd lost 1.1 percent, while Rio Tinto Ltd (Xetra: 855018news) dropped 1 percent.

Iron and steel producer Bluescope Steel Ltd slumped12.6 percent to trade near February lows of A$5.33, afterreporting a sharp recovery in annual earnings, but missed marketforecasts for earnings and core profits.

Caltex Ltd jumped 4.5 percent to its highest sinceJune 2007 of A$26.70 after reporting its half-year profit onreplacement costs at A$173 million compared with A$171 million,while saying it would cut 350 jobs across its operational andsupport divisions.

Among gas and energy companies, Santos Ltd added0.3 percent, while Australia’s top oil and gas producer WoodsidePetroleum Ltd edged 0.1 percent higher.

The Australian benchmark index hit a 5-1/2 week trough of5,509.0 on Aug. 8, but has since jumped some 140 points to tradeat six-year highs, underpinned by a robust earnings season.

“The market is just dribbling higher until the big picturechanges in regards to U.S. monetary policy,” said John Zhu, aportfolio manager at Triple 3 Partners (Other OTC: PGPHFnews) , an independentinvestment manager in Sydney.

“Apart from stock-specific news which would drive individualstocks, volatility would be on the low side.”

Among earnings, NIB Holdings Ltd gained 1.8 percentafter its full-year net profit rose 4 percent to A$69.9 million,while UGL Ltd lost 2.4 percent after the Australianengineering and property services company said underlying netprofit came in at A$111.7 million, below its forecast of A$120million.

Orora Ltd bounced 9.5 percent to A$1.61, anall-time high after reporting a 29.6 percent rise in proformaearnings before interest and tax to A$192.1 million.

New Zealand’s benchmark NZX-50 index rose 32.45points to 5,199.45, its best intraday level since mid-May.

Gains were led by a 5.2 percent rise in accounting softwaredeveloper Xero to a near one-month high of NZ$25.01,extending gains on a company announcement last week that itscustomer base had nearly doubled in Australia in the past year.

Metlifecare jumped 3 percent to a 2-1/2-month highof NZ$4.44 after the retirement home operator raised its finaldividend after underlying profits came in line with companyforecasts.

Chorus slipped 0.6 percent to NZ$1.72 after thestruggling telecommunications network operator reported a fallin profit and issued a lower earnings forecast for 2015. (Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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