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Australia shares drop to six-week lows, soft capex, Wall St depress mood
May 30, 2013 / 2:22 AM / 4 years ago

Australia shares drop to six-week lows, soft capex, Wall St depress mood

(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)

SYDNEY, May 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 1.1 percent to touch a six-week low on Thursday morning as weak business spending data compounded a sour mood from overnight losses on Wall Street and declines in metals prices.

Australian private new capital expenditure fell 4.7 percent in the first quarter in seasonally adjusted terms compared with the previous quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.

"The capex data that just came out about capital investment - they were soft, it's weighed on the market a bit," said Peter Esho, investment adviser at Wilson HTM Investment Group.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 53.9 points to 4,920.8 by 0158 GMT, its lowest point since April 19. The benchmark edged 0.1 percent higher on Wednesday.

Weak metals prices hit big-cap miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd, which dropped 1.5 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Spot iron ore fell below $113 a tonne, its lowest level in more than seven months, and Shanghai rebar futures fell near a nine-month low on Wednesday, due to slower steel demand in top consumer China.

"The material stocks are pulling the market lower, we don't have the definitive bounce in the material stocks yet," Esho said.

Financials were also weaker, with National Australia Bank tumbling 3.6 percent to its lowest point since early February after going ex-dividend. Westpac Banking Corp fell 0.6 percent while Australia and New Zealand Banking Group slipped 0.4 percent.

The local market has come under selling pressure recently on a combination of factors, including worries the U.S. Federal Reserve would wind back its stimulus this year and over slowing growth in China, Australia's major export market.

Defensives were on the backfoot. Top telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd declined 1.9 percent while consumer staple Wesfarmers Ltd lost 2 percent.

Gold miners however helped pare losses after bullion rose 1 percent as the U.S. dollar's drop and declines in equities triggered physical buying. Gold pulled back slightly in early Asia trade on Thursday.

Newcrest Mining Ltd and Regis Resources Ltd advanced 0.9 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively.

New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index slipped 0.3 percent or 15.3 points to 4,472.9.

STOCKS ON THE MOVE

* Atlas Iron Ltd dived 4.3 percent to A$0.785 after the company said it is on track to produce at the rate of 10 million tonnes per annum in its September quarter.

(0155 GMT)

* The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would not oppose Ruralco's proposed acquisition of Elders Rural Services Ltd. Ruralco soared 7.3 percent to A$3.21 to its highest point since early April, while Elders Rural Services rocketed 20 percent to A$0.12.

0157 GMT Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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