(Updates to close)
Feb 27 Australian shares ended lower for a third
straight day on Monday, hurt by losses in energy and materials,
as a jump in fourth quarter company earnings failed to uplift
Investors were on a wait-and-watch mode ahead of U.S.
President Donald Trump's Tuesday speech, his first major policy
address to Congress. His address is expected to include some
details of his infrastructure spending and tax plans.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.3 percent, or
14.79 points, to 5,724.2. The benchmark shed 0.8 percent in the
Company gross operating profits for the fourth quarter rose
67.9 percent compared with the previous quarter, the bureau of
statistics said on Monday, far surpassing analysts' expectations
in a Reuters poll for an 8 percent increase.
But the data was not enough to lift the index into positive
Losses were centred in basic materials and financial stocks.
Shares of three of the 'Big Four' banks edged lower by less
than 1 percent, while National Australia Bank Ltd
nudged up 0.3 percent.
Financial stocks saw "a bit of profit-taking" on fears their
share prices have peaked in the short term, said Ric Spooner,
chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Basic materials remained under pressure with mining giants
Rio Tinto Ltd and BHP Billiton Ltd down 0.6
percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.
Higher iron ore prices helped boost Fortescue Metals Group
Ltd shares by 1.4 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.3
percent, or 20.6 points, higher at 7,079.18.
Gains were led by industrials and utilities stocks, with
Auckland International Airport Ltd and Meridian Energy
Ltd 3.6 percent and 1.7 percent higher, respectively.
(Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Randy Fabi)