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SYDNEY, May 30 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 0.9 percent to a six-week low on Thursday as disappointing local capital expenditure figures added to gloomy sentiment across Asia after Japanese stocks took another dive.
Japanese shares plunged amid already depressed sentiment after Wall Street dropped overnight as investors continued to fret over the possible rollback of the U.S. monetary stimulus programme. The benchmark Nikkei fell 5.2 percent to a five-week low as strength in the yen hit exporters and triggered a broad-based selloff.
Australian private new capital expenditure fell 4.7 percent in the first quarter in seasonally adjusted terms compared with the previous quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Thursday.
“Although the figures were not dismal, investors took this as an invitation to exit the market,” said Betty Lam, sales trader at CMC Markets in a note.
Flagship miners BHP Billiton Ltd and Rio Tinto Ltd lost 1.2 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.
Spot iron ore fell below $113 a tonne, its lowest level in more than seven months, and Shanghai rebar futures fell near a nine-month low on Wednesday, due to slower steel demand in top consumer China.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 44 points to finish at 4,930.7, its lowest point since April 19. The benchmark edged 0.1 percent higher on Wednesday.
Wall Street’s decline overnight on growing concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve would taper off its massive bond-buying programme this year also weighed on sentiment.
High yielding financials were also weaker, with National Australia Bank tumbling 4 percent to its lowest point since early February after trading ex-dividend. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell 0.3. Top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia bucked the trend, recovering 1.1 percent after a heavy selloff in recent sessions.
“There’s ongoing rotation that’s taking place out of the banks to some extent or out of the high yield plays,” said Martin Lakos, division director at Macquarie Private Wealth.
The big four banks have relatively high dividend yields, on average, of some 5.6 percent, compared to 3 to percent to 4 percent interest on 12-month term deposits.
Flagship telecommunications provider Telstra Ltd lost 2.9 percent, although the stock currently yields at 5.7 percent.
Other defensives were also weaker. Blood products maker CSL Ltd slipped 0.4 percent while Wesfarmers Ltd dipped 2.1 percent.
The local market has come under selling pressure recently on a combination of factors, including the Fed stimulus worries and slowing growth in China, Australia’s major export market.
“All the statistics coming out are showing the U.S. economy has actually got some growth momentum taking place. We think Europe is obviously not improving, but is getting no worse. And of course you’ve got all the stimulation coming to Japan as well,” Lakos noted.
“If you are taking a medium-term view, there is growth recovery taking place.”
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.4 percent or 17.7 points to finish at 4,470.5. (Reporting by Thuy Ong, additional reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Eric Meijer)