Feb 16 Australian shares fell into the red after
touching a 21-month high on Thursday, as gains from financials
were offset by telecom stocks, which pulled back after Telstra
Corp's profit decline.
Across the Tasman, New Zealand stocks posted their biggest
percentage drop since November following a report that showed
consumer confidence falling.
Telstra shed as much as 5 percent, its worst session in over
four years, to a near two-month low after posting a 15 percent
drop in half-year profit.
The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 6.37 points, or 0.1
percent, to 5,802 points at 0107 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.9
percent on Wednesday.
"We did expect to see some positivity around the U.S
market's performance, but some Australia specific factors might
come into play and drag us down, particularly Telstra after its
report this morning," said Michael McCarthy, chief market
strategist with CMC Markets.
Supermarket operator Woolworths fell as much as 2.1
percent, its biggest percentage loss in over three months.
Lottery operator Tatts Group dropped to a near
three-month low after posting a 16.5 percent drop in its
Electricity provider Origin Energy fell 1.9 percent
after reporting a 28 percent drop in half-year underlying
Sydney Airport Holdings was 2.1 percent down,
despite posting a 10.3 percent increase in its 2016 earnings
before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
At the other end, financials took cues from their
peers on Wall Street as U.S. stocks pushed further into
record-high territory on Wednesday, gaining from positive
sentiment pushed by upbeat retail sales data for January.
The financials benchmark index rose to its highest in over a
Westpac Banking Corp rose to a more than one-month
Biopharmaceuticals company CSL rose to an all-time
high, extending its gains from Wednesday.
Material stocks were generally flat, with gains in copper
offset by declines in iron ore futures and gold prices.
Global miner Rio Tinto rose as much as 1.3 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark index dropped 1.04 percent
or 74.4 points, falling to 7,105.6 points.
Consumer confidence in New Zealand slipped in February.
Telecom and Industrial stocks were the biggest losers, with
Spark New Zealand and Auckland International Airport
dropping in the range of 2-4 percent.
Sky Network Television said if it gets regulatory
clearance to buy Vodafone's New Zealand unit it will not
hold off on the deal to give rival Spark NZ time to challenge
the regulator's decision in court, as requested.
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(Reporting by Ambar Warrick; Additional reporting by Suhail
Hassan Bhat; Editing by Sam Holmes)