Australian shares eased on Monday as weakness in commodity prices subdued miners and energy driven stocks, while financials slipped in thin trading with markets closed for holidays in China, Britain and the United States. The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.5 percent, or 30.26 points, at 5,721.7 by 0320 GMT. The benchmark had added 0.4 percent last week.
Basic materials languished as world’s no. 4 iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group shed 2.7 percent on persistent weakness in ore prices.
The most-active iron ore contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange posted its third weekly fall in four on Friday.
Fortescue is on track for a four straight month of losses.
Downbeat base metal prices provided Rio Tinto no respite, sending its shares down 1.7 percent.
BHP was down 0.6 percent after falling nearly 3 percent last week.
Australian media on Sunday reported that BHP and Rio Tinto could be hit by an iron ore tax in Western Australia. [http://bit.ly/2qtq5JU ]
Financial stocks continued a four-week losing streak, with the financial index down 1 percent, its biggest slide since December, 2016. The ‘Big Four’ banks fell by 1 percent to 1.3 percent.
The government announced in early May it was placing a levy on deposits for the country’s biggest banks.
“The sector has fallen out of favour since the announcemnt of the bank levy,” said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
“I think the concerns about the risk to banks and also the possibility of the downturn in the housing market may weigh on that sector and is continuing today.”
Healthcare stocks and industrials posted gains. Medical device maker Sirtex Medical Ltd rose as much as 4 percent in early trade after it said an injunction hearing that was delaying its share buyback plan was lifted.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was 0.3 percent, or 21.87 points, lower at 7419.24, pulled down by financials and consumer stocks.
NZ-listed Westpac and ANZ shares were the biggest contributors to the benchmark’s losses, down 1.5 percent and 2 percent respectively.
Dairy company a2 Milk was the biggest losing consumer stock, down 2.6 percent, its lowest in nearly three weeks.