Australia Stocks Fall for Fourth Straight Day

By Robb M. StewartFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Australian shares hit a two-week low on Friday as resources stocks joined a broad pullback, leaving the market nursing its sharpest weekly fall since early February.

The major banks, which carry a heavy weight in the local market, have weighed heavily since Australia & New Zealand Banking disappointed investors with a slightly weaker-than-expected rise in first-half earnings. Analysts say the results offered little to support the strong gains the sector has notched up since the U.S. presidential election.

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A slide in crude-oil and metals prices hit mining and energy stocks on Friday, adding to weakness across all sectors other than telecommunications stocks.

Falling for a fourth straight day, the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 39.8 points, or 0.7%, to 5836.6. For the week, the index was down 1.5%.

National Australia Bank led losses in major banks for the day, falling 1.2% as analysts waded in on first-half numbers released Thursday. While the results were in line with expectations, they didn't lead to significant changes in estimates or valuations for the bank.

ANZ was down a further 0.6%, for a loss this week of 6.4% that eroded its advance so far in 2017 to less than 1%. Commonwealth Bank of Australia was 0.3% lower and Westpac, which is due to report its half-year earnings on Monday, slipped 0.2%.

Still, investment bank and asset manager Macquarie jumped 3.2% after it reported a stronger-than-anticipated full-year profit and forecast a steady year ahead.

Among the miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell 2.7% and 2%, respectively, and Fortescue Metals Group was 3% weaker.

Woodside Petroleum was 2.7% lower, Oil Search declined 1.8% and Santos lost 3%.

Metals futures were again sharply lower in China on Friday, led by iron ore, while crude extended its drop in Asian trading as the market again worried about the global supply glut to send the price below US$45 a barrel for the first time since late November.

Telstra rose 4% after the country's competition regulator decided against opening up established wireless networks to competitors in rural parts of the country, removing a concern for investors that had hung over the shares.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 05, 2017 05:03 ET (09:03 GMT)