January 23, 2020 / 2:00 AM / in a month

Australian shares fall as energy, industrial stocks weigh; NZ dips

* Westpac names John McFarlane as chairman

* Class-action filed against CBA pension arm

* CIMIC to take A$1.8 bln one-off charge

By Shreya Mariam Job

Jan 23 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Thursday as a tumble in oil prices knocked over energy stocks, while a slump in heavyweight CIMIC Group also weighed on the index.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.8% or 56.10 points to 7076.60 by 0058 GMT. The benchmark closed 0.9% higher on Wednesday.

Losses were seen across the board, with energy and industrial stocks leading declines, while upbeat jobs data dampened hopes of a near-term interest rate cut.

“It’s still the best month we’ve had in more than eight years and the best start we’ve had to a new year since the mid-1980s. So, it is bound to happen that eventually we see the market pull back a bit,” said Steven Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec.

Energy stocks dropped as much as 1.9% to their lowest in over two weeks as oil prices slumped over 2% on worries of excess supplies.

Shares of heavyweight oil and gas explorer Worley Ltd dropped as much as 2.5%, while gas major Santos Ltd declined 2.7%.

Contractors CIMIC Group and Downer EDI also dragged the benchmark, losing as much as 20.5% and 26.3% each.

Sydney-based CIMIC said it was planning to exit the Middle East with the sale of its stake in BIC Contracting (BICC) and expects to take a one-off charge of A$1.8 billion ($1.23 billion), pushing its shares to an over three-year low.

Engineering services provider Downer revised its annual profit guidance for 2020 from A$365 million to A$300 million owing to underperforming projects.

Financial stocks dipped 0.2%, with shares of Westpac Banking Corp slipping 0.5%. The scandal-hit lender named industry veteran John McFarlane as chairman, entrusting him to help steer it through its troubled times.

Commonwealth Bank Of Australia was up marginally despite a class-action lawsuit filed against the lender’s pension arm for allegedly not acting in customers’ interest for insurance policies.

Healthcare stocks also dragged the benchmark lower. Shares of biotherapeutics firm CSL Ltd fell as much as 1.6% after scaling a new peak in the previous session.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped marginally to 11,883.05.

Air New Zealand dropped 0.7%, while a2 Milk Co shed 1.4%.

Reporting by Shreya Mariam Job in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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