May 19 Australian shares softened on Friday, as
the financial sector sagged on concerns over the effects of a
tax on banks and potential slowdown in the housing market.
The S&P/ASX 200 index, which fell for the last two
sessions, slipped 0.3 percent, or 17.012 points, to 5,721.3 by
0250 GMT. The benchmark dropped 0.8 percent on Thursday.
The financial sector accounted for more than half of the
indexe's losses, with the "Big Four" slipping 0.7-2 percent.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 2.2
percent at one point to its lowest in five months.
The benchmark index of financial stocks, which fell
for the past three days, dipped 1.2 percent to its lowest in
"Our markets are being brought down by selling in the bank
stocks," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC
Global stocks and their financial sectors are coming under
pressure on concerns about the political situation in the United
States, Spooner said.
"But our bank stocks are falling on local concerns. The
imposition of the bank tax and also due to a potential slowdown
in the housing market," Spooner added, referring to a new tax on
banks in this month's federal budget.
The government announced a six basis points levy on the
deposits of the country's five biggest banks in its annual
budget, a measure that will deliver A$6.2 billion through to
2020/21 as it aims to get its finances back into the black.
Gold prices retreated following a bounce in the dollar,
after rising to near two-week highs on Wednesday on growing
uncertainty over the future of Donald Trump's presidency.
Newcrest Mining fell more than three percent,
snapping two sessions of gains.
The country's top billboard company oOh!media Ltd
edged lower on its sixth straight day of losses after its rival
APN Outdoor Group Ltd dropped plans to buy the company
as the antitrust regulator raised concerns.
The materials sector was the only sector in positive
territory with diversified miner BHP Billiton leading,
on the backdrop of upbeat Shanghai steel and oil prices.
BHP aims to start potash production at Jansen, Saskatchewan
in 2023 and plans to produce 4 million tonnes annually. The
miner, under pressure from activist investor Elliott Management
to review its assets, said its open to taking on a partner in
Jansen, but added that there are no ongoing talks.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index inched up
0.3 percent, or 20.28 points, to 7,392.04.
Material stocks dominated gainers, with Fletcher Building
, up as much as 1.5 percent.
(Additional reporting by Susan Mathew; Editing by Jacqueline