(Updates to close)
March 1 - Australian shares ended lower for a fifth straight
session on Wednesday, pulled down by telecom and material
stocks, after U.S President Donald Trump's much-awaited speech
offered little clarity on his infrastructure and tax reform
Further, comments from U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers
that the case for tightening monetary policy has become a lot
more "compelling" also weighed on the market sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.1 percent, or
7.421 points, at 5,704.80. The benchmark posted its longest
streak of losses since June 2016.
"There is nothing in there for the markets to get excited
about," said Tony Farnham, economist at Paterson Securities,
referring to Trump's speech.
Trump shifted from his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration
in a speech to Congress that offered a more restrained tone than
his election campaign and first month in the White House.
Gains in financials following a better-than expected growth
in fourth-quarter GDP were offset by losses in leading telecom
The financial index ended 0.5 percent firmer after
the Australian Bureau of Statistics said GDP climbed 1.1 percent
in the fourth quarter.
ASX 200 Telecommunication Services (GIC) ended 3.4
percent lower, extending fall to a fifth straight session while
Australia's largest telecom company by market value, Telstra
Corporation Ltd, fell 3.7 pct.
"The economic growth numbers did surprise a bit on the
outside and did give a reason for the market to get a little bit
excited. I would say that it was a contributing factor to the
rally we saw from light morning all the way to half way through
the Trump speech," Farnham added.
The S&P/ASX 200 materials index fell 0.3 percent,
while the metals index fell 0.6 percent.
Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto
ended 0.5 percent to 1 percent hurt by lower iron ore prices.
Retail chain owner Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd, down
5.8 percent, was the biggest loser on the benchmark index while
Cleaning services provider Spotless Group Holdings fell
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.3
percent, or 18.680 points lower, at 7148.78, dragged down by
financial and telecom shares.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited
fell 0.4 percent while Telecommunications provider Spark New
Zealand fell 1 percent.
(Reporting by Sandhya Sampath in Bengaluru, Additional
reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Vyas Mohan)