Australia shares sag as Fed minutes weigh on bank stocks; NZ rises

(Updates to close)

July 6 (Reuters) – 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

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.
(Reporting by Shashwat Pradhan in Bengaluru)