Australia Stocks Surrender Some of Previous Session's Gains

By Robb M. Stewart Features Dow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australian stocks gave up a chunk of the previous session's rally on Wednesday, with investors selling a broad swath of the market.

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After notching up the strongest one-day gain in eight months, the S&P/ASX 200 retreated 20.5 points, or 0.4%, to 5763.3. The index has now fallen in three of the last four sessions.

Health care and property stocks saw some of the sharpest losses, while the major banks pared some of the strong gains that helped drive the wider market Tuesday. Only the materials and telecommunications sectors finished in positive territory.

For the day, 1.84 billion shares were traded with a value of 4.92 billion Australian dollars (US$3.74 billion), Commonwealth Securities said.

Although there was some wariness across markets after the latest missile test conducted by North Korea, there had been little evidence of investors turning to safe-haven assets at this stage, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking, Australia & New Zealand Banking and National Australia Bank were down between 0.4% and 0.9%, and investment bank and asset manager Macquarie lost 0.7%. The regional lenders fared better, with Bendigo & Adelaide Bank edging up 0.2% and Bank of Queensland rising 0.4%.

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Sonic Healthcare led health stocks lower, falling 3.9% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch lowered its stance on the shares to underperform from neutral and trimmed its earnings forecasts.

Among telecom companies, Vocus led the sector higher with a 2.1% rise after it said it had agreed to open its books to suitor KKR. The private-equity firm has also set its sights on smaller non-bank lender Pepper, which fell 7.2% after confirming an approach from KKR as it unwound much of a 10% surge since the start of the month.

Diversified miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rose 1.6% and 1.7%, respectively, and iron-ore producer Fortescue Metals Group was 1.5% higher.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 05, 2017 03:25 ET (07:25 GMT)