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March 1 - Australian shares ended lower for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, pulled down by telecom and material stocks, after U.S President Donald Trump’s much-awaited speech offered little clarity on his infrastructure and tax reform plans.
Further, comments from U.S. Federal Reserve policy makers that the case for tightening monetary policy has become a lot more “compelling” also weighed on the market sentiment.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.1 percent, or 7.421 points, at 5,704.80. The benchmark posted its longest streak of losses since June 2016.
“There is nothing in there for the markets to get excited about,” said Tony Farnham, economist at Paterson Securities, referring to Trump’s speech.
Trump shifted from his harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration in a speech to Congress that offered a more restrained tone than his election campaign and first month in the White House.
Gains in financials following a better-than expected growth in fourth-quarter GDP were offset by losses in leading telecom companies.
The financial index ended 0.5 percent firmer after the Australian Bureau of Statistics said GDP climbed 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
ASX 200 Telecommunication Services (GIC) ended 3.4 percent lower, extending fall to a fifth straight session while Australia’s largest telecom company by market value, Telstra Corporation Ltd, fell 3.7 pct.
“The economic growth numbers did surprise a bit on the outside and did give a reason for the market to get a little bit excited. I would say that it was a contributing factor to the rally we saw from light morning all the way to half way through the Trump speech,” Farnham added.
The S&P/ASX 200 materials index fell 0.3 percent, while the metals index fell 0.6 percent.
Global miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto ended 0.5 percent to 1 percent hurt by lower iron ore prices.
Retail chain owner Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd, down 5.8 percent, was the biggest loser on the benchmark index while Cleaning services provider Spotless Group Holdings fell 5.5 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.3 percent, or 18.680 points lower, at 7148.78, dragged down by financial and telecom shares.
Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited fell 0.4 percent while Telecommunications provider Spark New Zealand fell 1 percent.
Reporting by Sandhya Sampath in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Vyas Mohan