(Updates to close)
April 6 Australian shares closed down on
Thursday, pressured by signs the U.S. Federal Reserve may trim
its massive asset holdings earlier than expected and a highly
anticipated meeting between the U.S. and Chinese presidents
later in the day.
The cautious mood weighed on Wall Street overnight and
dragged down regional markets, denting the S&P/ASX 200 index
by 0.34 percent to 5,856.30 at the close of trade.
Minutes from the March Fed meeting showed most policymakers
thought the U.S. central bank should take steps to begin
trimming its $4.5 trillion balance sheet later this year. Wall
Street banks had expected no changes until mid-2018.
Australian banks, which have been under selling pressure in
the past week as regulators stepped up curbs on home lending,
fell 1 percent. The "Big Four" gave up 0.9 to 1.4 percent.
Australia's banking watchdog said on Wednesday that
authorities can and will take further action if needed to stop a
debt-fuelled bubble in the country's red-hot housing market.
Banks are in focus "as investors assess the possibility of
banks being required to increase capital to support housing
loans," said Ric Spooner Chief Market analyst at CMC Markets.
Investors were also wary ahead of a potentially tense
meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese
counterpart Xi Jinping.
Topping the agenda will be whether Trump makes good on his
threat to use U.S.-China trade ties to pressure Beijing to do
more to rein in its nuclear-armed neighbour North Korea.
The gold index finished 1.1 percent higher as investors took
shelter in safe-haven assets amid the depressed global backdrop.
Newcrest Mining Ltd rose 0.9 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.34
percent, or 24.47 points, higher at 7,289.52.
The benchmark hit an intraday high of 7,289.53, the highest
since October 2016.
Utilities and consumer stocks led the gains, with a2 Milk
Company Ltd rising 3.3 percent, while Meridian Energy
Ltd climbed 1.7 percent.
(Reporting by Krishna V Kurup in Bengaluru; Editing by Shri