Australian shares steady ahead of financial services report; NZ falls
* Aussie shares mostly unchanged as materials weigh
* Banks trade in tight range ahead of inquiry's interim
* NZ falls on consumer staples and utilities
By Aditya Soni
Sept 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares treaded water on
Thursday as materials stocks fell on lower copper prices and
banks drifted sideways ahead of an interim report due on Friday
from a powerful inquiry into the financial services sector.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.1 percent or 7.20
points to 6,185.10 by 0200 GMT. It rose 0.1 percent on
Materials, especially mining stocks, dominated the losses,
hurt by sustained weakness in copper prices.
Copper was on track for fourth straight day of losses on
Thursday after falling 0.6 percent in the previous session.
Escalating Sino-U.S. trade tensions have pushed the
industrial metal 13.4 percent lower in 2018.
Global miner BHP dropped as much as 1.2 percent and
was the biggest drag on the benchmark, while Rio Tinto Ltd
dipped 0.8 percent.
Energy stocks were also in red, falling 0.4 percent after
three sessions of big gains.
Woodside Petroleum Ltd, the biggest listed oil and
gas explorer, fell 0.3 percent, while Oil Search Ltd
fell 1 percent.
Meanwhile, banks drifted sideways ahead of a high-profile
inquiry's interim report due on Friday.
The Royal Commission, as the powerful inquiry is called, has
already revealed widespread wrongdoing in Australian financial
services, making it the worst-performing ASX sector this year.
The inquiry questioned on Wednesday whether the insurance
industry's system of self-regulation should be overhauled amid
evidence of widespread misconduct.
Kyle Rodda, market analyst at IG Markets, said the falls in
banks and insurance stocks were being driven by speculation
around the Royal Commission report.
Index heavyweight Australia and New Zealand Banking Group
Ltd fell as much 0.5 percent to its lowest since July
3, while National Australia Bank Ltd dipped 0.2
Across the Tasman Sea, shares of consumer staples and
utilities sent New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index
0.5 percent or 50.04 points to 9,299.81, its lowest in more than
A2 Milk Company Ltd fell as much as 2.5 percent to
a more than two-week low and was the biggest drag on the
benchmark, while Meridian Energy Ltd fell 3.2 percent
to its lowest since Sept. 12.
Earlier in the day, New Zealand's central bank kept its cash
rate steady at a record low on Thursday and said the direction
of the next change was still in the balance, citing tepid
inflation and a turbulent international outlook.
(Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; editing by Eric Meijer)
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