February 16, 2017 / 1:54 AM / in 10 months

Telstra drags Australian shares lower; NZ slips

Feb 16 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell into the red after touching a 21-month high on Thursday, as gains from financials were offset by telecom stocks, which pulled back after Telstra Corp’s profit decline.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand stocks posted their biggest percentage drop since November following a report that showed consumer confidence falling.

Telstra shed as much as 5 percent, its worst session in over four years, to a near two-month low after posting a 15 percent drop in half-year profit.

The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 6.37 points, or 0.1 percent, to 5,802 points at 0107 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.9 percent on Wednesday.

“We did expect to see some positivity around the U.S market’s performance, but some Australia specific factors might come into play and drag us down, particularly Telstra after its report this morning,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist with CMC Markets.

Supermarket operator Woolworths fell as much as 2.1 percent, its biggest percentage loss in over three months.

Lottery operator Tatts Group dropped to a near three-month low after posting a 16.5 percent drop in its half-yearly profit.

Electricity provider Origin Energy fell 1.9 percent after reporting a 28 percent drop in half-year underlying profit.

Sydney Airport Holdings was 2.1 percent down, despite posting a 10.3 percent increase in its 2016 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.

At the other end, financials took cues from their peers on Wall Street as U.S. stocks pushed further into record-high territory on Wednesday, gaining from positive sentiment pushed by upbeat retail sales data for January.

The financials benchmark index rose to its highest in over a month.

Westpac Banking Corp rose to a more than one-month high.

Biopharmaceuticals company CSL rose to an all-time high, extending its gains from Wednesday.

Material stocks were generally flat, with gains in copper offset by declines in iron ore futures and gold prices.

Global miner Rio Tinto rose as much as 1.3 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark index dropped 1.04 percent or 74.4 points, falling to 7,105.6 points.

Consumer confidence in New Zealand slipped in February.

Telecom and Industrial stocks were the biggest losers, with Spark New Zealand and Auckland International Airport dropping in the range of 2-4 percent.

Sky Network Television said if it gets regulatory clearance to buy Vodafone’s New Zealand unit it will not hold off on the deal to give rival Spark NZ time to challenge the regulator’s decision in court, as requested.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Ambar Warrick; Additional reporting by Suhail Hassan Bhat; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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