(Updates to close)
May 18 Australian shares sank on Thursday
dragged down by financials such as Westpac Banking Corp
, after it traded ex-dividend, despite an improvement in
the country's jobless rate.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.8 percent, or 47.728
points to 5,738.3 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell to
its lowest in nearly eight weeks in early trade. The bourse
slipped 1.1 percent on Wednesday.
All sectors were in the red with bank stocks accounting for
more than half of the losses on the benchmark.
The country's second-biggest lender Westpac dived as much as
4.7 percent to its lowest close in more than 5 months as it
traded ex-dividend while the other banks in the "Big Four" fell
between 0.2-0.9 percent.
The gloomy sentiment in the bourse was also prompted by a
slump in Wall Street on mounting concerns over U.S. President
Donald Trump's ability to deliver on his tax, banking reforms
and infrastructure spending policies, following reports of his
interference with a federal investigation.
Global miner BHP Billiton joined the top losers in
the bourse, falling 1.3 percent, at one point. Activist investor
Elliott Management said a meeting with BHP's chief executive
this week was 'constructive'. The fund is urging the miner to
make strategic changes.
Bucking the trend, Fairfax Media leapt 7 percent to
a more than 6-year high, after the country's oldest newspaper
publisher received a $2.87 billion takeover bid from a second
U.S. private equity firm.
"A bidding war for Fairfax Media may have started as the
media company received a new bid from global private equity
firm, Hellman and Friedman," said Chris Conway, Head of trading
and research at Australian Stock Report.
Australia's unemployment rate slipped to 5.7 percent in
April, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said, compared with
analysts' expectations for a steady 5.9 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.7
percent, or 50.74 points, to finish the session at 7,371.76. The
index recorded its biggest one-day fall in two months despite
reports of growing consumer confidence in the country in May.
Health care and telecom stocks were the biggest drags with
telecom service provider Spark New Zealand, down 1.8
percent, among the top decliners.
(Reporting by Hanna Paul; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)