Australia Stocks End Down for Third Day in a Row

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australian shares extended their string of losses Thursday as a pullback by the big banks again weighed on the market.

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The largest banks have fallen three days running, since Australia & New Zealand Banking disappointed investors with a slightly weaker-than-expected first-half earnings report and a further deterioration in its lending margin thanks to heightened competition and higher funding costs.

National Australia Bank fell in tandem with its peers, despite having spent much of the session in positive territory after analysts initially welcomed its half-year earnings, which were in line with expectations, and dividend payout.

Prior to the current losing streak, the broader market Monday hit a two-year closing high after a series of increases by the banks over the previous week, extending gains in the sector since the November election of President Donald Trump on expectations of rising interest rates and inflation in the U.S.

Although off the day's lows, the S&P/ASX 200 ended down 15.9 points, or 0.3%, at 5876.4.

Mining stocks added to the selling as they came under pressure with a fresh drop in prices for the steelmaking commodity and a sharp overnight decline in copper. That offset strength in energy shares after late-session gains in U.S. oil prices Wednesday.

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ANZ closed down 1.7% and has now fallen 6.4% over the past three days.

Westpac Banking, which is due to report its first-half earnings Monday, slipped 1.2% and Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 0.8%, while National Australia Bank weakened by 0.5%.

Iron-ore producers Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group were down 1.8% and 4.8%, respectively. BHP Billiton, which also operates a sizable oil-and-gas business, edged up 0.1%.

Woodside Petroleum added 1%, Oil Search gained 0.7% and Santos picked up 0.3%.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 04, 2017 04:17 ET (08:17 GMT)