Australian shares edged lower on Thursday, with the financial sector slipping after the Federal Reserve’s policy minutes showed a lack of consensus on the pace of U.S. interest rate increases. The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.1 percent or 4.45 points to 5,758.80 at the close of trade. The benchmark fell 0.4 percent on Wednesday.
Financial stocks accounted for about one-third of the losses with the Big Four banks – Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Australia New Zealand Banking – all edging lower. Minutes from the Fed’s last policy meeting, released on Wednesday, showed policymakers increasingly split on the outlook for inflation and how it might affect the pace of interest rate rises.
Despite the slippage for the benchmark index, advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by a 1.3-to-1 ratio. Sentiment in some sectors was boosted by data showing Australia’s trade surplus rebounded sharply in May as coal shipments recovered faster than expected from cyclone disruptions. This put exports back on track to add to economic growth in the quarter.
CSL Ltd and Newcrest Mining both climbed 1.5 percent each. New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.45 percent or 33.94 points to finish the session at 7,629.61. Utilities and telecom stocks led gains on the index. Contact Energy Ltd and Spark New Zealand were among the big gainers, advancing 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent respectively.