November 2, 2017 / 6:19 AM / in a year

Australia shares end lower after NAB earnings; New Zealand up

(Updates to close)

Nov 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares closed marginally lower on Thursday as a rally in the materials sector due to a rise in metals prices was offset by losses in financial stocks after National Australia Bank (NAB) flagged restructuring charges.

The S&P/ASX 200 index which touched a two-and-a-half year high in early trade reversed gains to close down 0.1 percent or 6.066 points at 5,931.7. The benchmark had risen 0.49 percent to a near 6-month high on Wednesday.

Shares of NAB, Australia’s largest business lender, ended 2.8 percent down after the company said it would incur restructuring charges of A$500 million ($385.55 million) to A$800 million in the first half of fiscal 2018, and a spike in expenses of between 5 percent and 8 percent over the year.

The bank added it would shed a net 4,000 jobs in the next three years, representing about 12 percent of its current workforce despite reporting a record annual cash profit.

The Australian financial index fell 0.8 percent and accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark index.

Conversely, the Australian Metals and Mining index rose 1.9 percent to a more than 3-year high supported by the rise in iron ore futures and surge in nickel prices.

Heavyweight Rio Tinto Ltd closed at an over six-year high, while its rival, BHP Billiton Ltd closed at a 7-week high.

Nickel miners Independence Group NL and Western Areas Ltd rose 3.6 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.4 percent or 29.25 points to finish the session at 8,083.06, after posting its biggest drop since March the previous day.

Consumer staples led the index’s upward charge, with a2 Milk Company Ltd accounting for most of the gains, while Synlait Milk Ltd rose 3.9 percent.

$1 = 1.2968 Australian dollars Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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