Australia shares pulled down by banks, healthcare shares; NZ softens

July 12 (Reuters) – Australian shares fell on Wednesday
weighed by financial stocks, which tracked their U.S.
counterparts lower and amid widespread caution ahead of Federal
Reserve chief Janet Yellen’s semi-annual congressional testimony
later in the day.
Markets will closely watch Yellen’s comments before the House
Financial Services Committee for clues on the pace of U.S.
monetary policy tightening, though no major changes to the
policy outlook are expected.

Investors are also lying low ahead of major U.S. second
quarter earnings reports later this week with big banks,
including JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and
Citigroup, due to report on Friday.

“There is just a lack of clean drivers, lack of fresh
catalysts for the buyers to step up and buy in the markets,”
said Ben Le Brun, a market analyst at OptionsXpress.

“We are looking at the U.S. earnings season and at our own
quarterly production reports season.”

Mining giant Rio Tinto will report its second
quarter production numbers on July 18.

The Aussie benchmark index, which finished flat on
Tuesday, lost 0.7 percent, or 37.93 points, to 5,691 by 0250
GMT.

Financial stocks were the biggest drag on the benchmark with
the losses concentrated in the big banks, which lost in a range
of 1 percent to 1.3 percent.

Healthcare stocks too were among the top decliners with CSL
Ltd, the biggest stock in the sector by market value
with substantial exposure to U.S. markets, losing 1.4 percent to
its lowest position in over a month.

The industrials sector was pulled down by a 1.5 percent fall
in Sydney Airport Holdings shares, while consumer
shares were weighed down by a 0.7 percent decline in Wesfarmers
stocks.

The basic materials sector was the only one to gain with its
miners supported by an uptick in commodity prices.

Big miners BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue
added in a range of 0.3 percent to 0.6 percent, helped
by a surge in iron ore and base metals prices.

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New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4
percent or 27.64 points to 7,599.83, dragged down telecom and
industrial stocks.

Building materials maker Fletcher Building Ltd and
telecom infrastructure business Chorus Ltd were the
biggest decliners on the benchmark, down 1.9 percent and 2.3
percent, respectively.
(Reporting by Rushil Dutta; Additional reporting by Chandini
Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)