| April 19
April 19 Australian shares lingered at
three-week lows on Wednesday with heavyweight bank shares sold
after the central bank flagged risks in the country's housing
market, while energy shares continued to drag on persistent
weakness in oil prices.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.5 percent or 29.04
points to 5807.7 by 0232 GMT.
Stocks also tracked wider market weakness in the region as
presidential elections in France and escalating tensions between
the United States and North Korea continued to weigh on investor
"There is a view out there now that interest rates are not
going to increase in Australia, notwithstanding the fact that
the Reserve Bank of Australia would like to see some heat taken
out of our housing market prices," said James McGlew, executive
director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.
"It looks as though rates will remain on hold, but banks are
going to struggle a little with new (prudential) requirements
and their commercial lending," he said.
Minutes from the Australian central bank's April meeting on
Tuesday showed board members saw greater risks in the housing
market, and the regulators would be ready to take more measures
to cool the market if necessary.
Recently, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
took steps to combat the explosive growth in house prices by
tightening lending standards for home loans.
The benchmark financial index fell to a more than
one week low with the "big four" banks dropping between 0.8
percent - 1.4 percent. Westpac Banking Corp slipped to
its lowest level in more than three weeks.
Real estate stocks took a beating with shares of property
developers Scentre Group and Stockland Corporation Ltd
shedding 2.1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.
Sentiment in the market was further dented as growing
worries about a production glut pressured crude oil prices
Oil major Woodside Petroleum fell for a third
session, while peer Oil Search Ltd hit a three-week low
after it announced a drop in quarterly output.
Meanwhile, large-cap miners such as BHP Billiton
and Rio Tinto reversed early losses, with Rio shares
gaining more than 1 percent at one point.
Telecom stocks rebounded, with Telstra shares
snapping a four-day losing streak.
New Zealand shares slid to a more than two week low dragged
down by industrial and healthcare sector.
The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index lost 0.51 percent or
36.55 points to 7197.06 by 0233 GMT.
Shares of supply chain logistics company Mainfreight Ltd
and medical device maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
fell to a three week low.
(Reporting by Anusha Ravindranath in Bengaluru; Additional
reporting by Hanna Paul; Editing by Sam Holmes)