Australian shares pared early losses to finish unchanged on Wednesday after a late rally in industrials and telecom shares, but weakness in financial and consumer staples sectors capped gains. Sentiment was cautious as investors awaited a US Federal Reserve monetary policy statement later in the global day. Iron ore producer Fortescue plunged after scrapping a $2.5 billion bond issue while energy-related shares also fell.
The S&P/ASX 200 index closed at 5,842.3 points, after rising 0.8 percent on Tuesday. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index ended down 1 percent or 58.74 points to finish the session at 5,846.66.
Sentiment was cautious as investors continue to hold their breath, awaiting the US Federal Reserve monetary policy statement later in the global day. "We expect to see a tug-of-war between the bulls and the bears," said Hue Frame, senior adviser at Atlantic Pacific Securities. The bulls think there won't be a rate rise in the US this year while the bears see one coming "over the next few months," he said. Fortescue was among Wednesday's biggest losers on the index, falling 6.6 percent.
Energy-related shares such as Santos and Beach Energy pulled the index lower after oil came under renewed pressure, due by stockpiles. Woolworths, which traded ex-dividend on Wednesday, declined 2.15 percent. Major banks were all down with Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank falling about 0.4 percent. Large miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were up 1.3 and 0.3 percent respectively.
Boral, which announced a share buyback plan, was up 1.4 percent. New Zealand's Energy generator and retailer Meridian Energy fell 3.3 percent. Contact Energy dropped 1.8 percent as investors continued to book profits in the sector, where many companies have outperformed the NZX50 index in the past year. Steel products maker Steel and Tube fell 3 percent to a one-month low of NZ$2.90. Further losses in the index were limited by a 3.5 percent rise in clothing retailer Kathmandu to NZ$1.78.