June 13, 2018 / 2:59 AM / 11 days ago

Australian shares fall ahead of Fed meeting's results, NZ lower

* Banks, commodity stocks lead losses

* APA Group soars after $9.8 bln takeover bid

* NZ shares fall, led down by consumer stocks

By Devika Syamnath

June 13 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell nearly across the board on Wednesday as investors looked past the U.S.-North Korea summit to the Federal Reserve’s decision due later in the day.

Markets expect the Fed to raise rates for the second time this year but caution prevails as investors await its language on the pace of further tightening.

“The outlook is probably slightly negative, so our market’s probably going to stay in the negative zone for the rest of the day,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.7 percent or 39.5 points, to 6,014.9, at 0212 GMT. It added 0.2 percent on Tuesday, when U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Australia’s “Big Four” banks accounted for most of main index’s losses, shedding between 0.7 percent to 1.2 percent.

“The market struggles to hold up at 6,000. We had a weak currency overnight and that plays into domestic exposure, so the banks are getting hit on that,” said Somasundaram.

The index of mining stocks, down the past two days, extended losses on weakness in base metal prices.

Heavyweight BHP Billiton was the benchmark’s top drag, down 1.4 percent. Rival Rio Tinto also lost 1.4 percent.

In a busy day for deals, Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting Pty Ltd group of companies disclosed a 19.96 percent stake in Atlas Iron Ltd, joining the race for the small iron ore miner.

Atlas reached its highest in over a year, up as much as 9.5 percent.

Also, France’s ERAMET upped its offer price for Australia’s Mineral Deposits Ltd by nearly 20 percent but seemingly failed to impress the market, as the latter was down 3.4 percent.

Blackstone signed an agreement to buy Australia’s Investa Office Fund for $2.3 billion, helping Investa shares up nearly 1 percent. Gateway Lifestyle Group gained over 14 percent on Hometown’s buyout proposal that values the company at $480 million.

Gas pipeline company APA Group aided the main board after surging to a record, at one point up 24 percent, on a $9.81 billion takeover offer from a consortium led by Hong Kong’s CK Infrastructure Holdings.

At 0213 GMT, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was down 0.3 percent to 8,931.93, hurt by consumer staples.

Dairy products maker A2 Milk Company Ltd was the biggest loser, off as much as 3.7 percent. (Reporting by Devika Syamnath in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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