Feb 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Monday with materials and financials dragging the index into the red, though a surge in QBE Insurance Ltd helped contained losses.
The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.3 percent, or 19.59 points to 5,719.30 at 0059 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.8 percent on Friday.
Global miner BHP Billiton Ltd fell as much as 1.2 percent to its lowest in over two months, extending losses into a fourth session. This follows a drop of more than 2 percent on Friday in China’s iron ore futures, after a rapid rally.
Metals and mining index, which has fallen three of the past four sessions, declined as much as 1 percent.
Rio Tinto Ltd slid as much as 1.9 percent, lowest since Jan 23.
Market sentiment was also affected by a drop in oil prices on Friday on worries about rising U.S. supplies.
Oil Search Ltd declined 3.2 percent while Woodside Petroleum shed 1.6 percent.
Financials were the second biggest loser with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd shedding 0.3 percent, while Commonwealth Bank Of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp both dropped 0.8 percent.
Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said there was “a bit of profit-taking” in financial stocks on some fears that their share-prices have peaked.
Japara Healthcare was the biggest percentage loser, falling 7.7 percent after it reported a fall in half-year net profit.
But QBE Insurance Group Ltd surged as much as 8 percent to its highest in over a year after saying it would buy back up to A$1 billion of shares over the next three years.
Australia’s No. 1 insurer by premium income also reported a 23 percent jump in full-year net profit.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 7,065.28 as gains in industrials were offset by losses in materials.
Health care services provider Metlifecare Ltd was the biggest percentage gainer, rising 1.8 percent after it reported a 31.3 percent jump in half-year net profit.
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Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ambar Warrick; Editing by Richard Borsuk