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May 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Wednesday as financial and basic material stocks extended losses, brought down by softer metals prices and as caution about bank earnings and monetary policy weighed on sentiment.
Investors will also be looking out for the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later in the day at which it is expected to stand pat on interest rates.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was 0.98 percent lower, or 58.065 points, at 5,892.3.
Losses were led by financial stocks as the “Big Four” banks lost between 1.7 percent and 2.8 percent after ANZ’s half-year results miss in the previous session kept investors cautious ahead of National Australia Bank’s half-year results due on Thursday.
The Reserve Bank of Australia held rates steady on Tuesday as it sought to balance the risk of rising household debt against subdued inflation and wages growth.
“As far as inflation’s concerned, it’s back in the band, so there are very little chances of a rate cut coming. It’s more likely that next year there is going to be a rate rise,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.
In the context of such an outlook, Somasundaram says banks may find it hard to grow as households may exercise some frugality.
Basic material stocks also lost on weaker copper and iron ore prices and on disappointing factory output data from the United States and China.
BHP Billiton fell percent to its lowest in nearly six months, down 2.3 percent while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals shed nearly 1 percent.
Telecom stock Vocus Group was the worst-performing index constituent, ending 27.2 percent lower after slashing its forecast for the 2017 financial year.
Consumer company Woolworths fell 2.7 percent, having had risen up to 2.5 percent in the previous session after recording strong quarterly sales figures but warned of a loss for its department store chain, Big W, in the second half.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.22 percent lower, or 16.65 points, to finish the session at 7,405.84, snapping straight days of gains.
A 3.5 percent loss in the New Zealand shares of ANZ Bank weighed on the rest of the sector, while Sky Network was the biggest loser on the benchmark, down 3.7 percent. (Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Rushil Dutta; Editing by Sam Holmes)