Australia shares end at 3-week lows as financial stocks weigh; NZ softer

(Updates to close)

July 12 (Reuters) – Australian shares ended at a three-week
low on Wednesday, dragged down by financial stocks, which
trailed their U.S. peers lower amid caution ahead of Federal
Reserve chief Janet Yellen’s semi-annual congressional testimony
later in the day.
The Australian benchmark index finished at its lowest
level since June 21, down about 1 percent at 5,673.8.
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.
Financial stocks were the biggest losers on the benchmark
with the big banks shedding in a range of 1 percent to 1.5
percent.

Healthcare stocks too were among the top decliners with CSL
Ltd, a sector heavyweight, posting a 2.5 percent loss.

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 0.1 percent to 0.8 percent, helped
by a surge in iron ore and base metals prices.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index finished
0.6 percent lower at 7,586.02.

Telecom and industrial stocks were the top losers with
Auckland International Airport and Spark New Zealand
shedding 1.6 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
(Reporting by Rushil Dutta in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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