Australian shares ended lower on Monday as weaker commodity prices took a toll on mining and energy stocks, while financials slipped on lingering worries stemming from a government levy on deposits. The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.8 percent, or 44.56 points, at 5,707.10, with trading largely sparse as markets were closed for holidays in China, Britain and the United States. The benchmark had added 0.4 percent last week.
Major miners Rio Tinto and BHP fell 1.5 percent and 0.7 percent respectively after Australian media on Sunday reported that both firms could be hit by an iron ore tax in Western Australia. The world’s no.4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group shed 3 percent on persistent weakness in ore prices.
Financial stocks extended a four-week losing streak, mainly hurt by government’s early-May announcement that it was placing a levy on deposits for the country’s biggest banks. The financial index was down 1.4 percent, its biggest fall since December 2016. The ‘Big Four’ banks fell between 1.3 percent and nearly 2 percent.
“The sector has fallen out of favour since the announcemnt of the bank levy,” said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. New Zealand’s benchmark index finished down 0.4 percent, or 28.83 points, at 7412.74, dragged down by financials and consumer stocks. Dairy company a2 Milk, down 3.2 percent, was the biggest loser on the benchmark.