Australian shares fell on Friday as miners and energy stocks declined on lower metal and oil prices, while investors remain watchful of U.S jobs data due later in the day. The S&P/ASX 200 index was 26.01 points, or 0.44 percent, lower at 5,850.3 by 0306 GMT, on track to post its worst week since early February. The index ended 0.3 percent lower on Thursday. Globally, investors will also be looking out for U.S. employment data due later in the day. The Aussie dollar may be knocked lower if the data disappoints, said Bill Keenan, general manager of direct equities research at broker Lonsec.
The materials index was down for a ninth straight session, holding at near six-month lows hit in the last few sessions as iron ore futures tumbled 8 percent on Thursday and on overnight losses in copper. Miners BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals shed more than 2 percent each. BHP Billiton was targetted by another shareholder push for strategic reorganization, with Sydney-based Tribeca Global Natural Resources Fund pressing the company to sell its U.S. shale assets and to overhaul its board and senior management.
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This comes after the miner had rejected shareholder Elliot Management’s proposal to spin off it U.S. oil division last month. Rio Tinto had said on Thursday that it is watching for signs of a revival in domestic iron ore mining in China later this year to reduce reliance on imports because of the high prices of imported ores. The energy index was 1.8 percent lower with Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search shedding 2 percent after oil prices fell further on Friday on oversupply concerns.
Telecom stocks rose, with the telecom index up 3.6 percent after three sessions of losses. Australia’s competition watchdog said on Friday it will not regulate the nation’s mobile roaming market, in a favourable draft ruling for the country’s biggest telco, Telstra Corp Ltd , which can keep rivals like TPG Telecom from using its infrastructure.
Telstra shares were up as much as 5.4 percent, it highest since April 11, while TPG Telecom lost as much as 4.6 percent, it steepest intraday fall in more than two weeks. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly approved legislation on Thursday to replace major portions of Obamacare with a Republican healthcare plan. It has yet to pass the Senate. Shares of healthcare stock CSL Ltd, which has significant U.S. exposure, were up as much as 0.5 percent, hitting an all-time high.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was up 0.03 percent or 2.08 points at 7,380.5. Fletcher Building Ltd led the gains, up 0.9 percent, while natural health product company Comvita Ltd lost the most, falling 8.3 percent.
(Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru)