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Markets

Gold miners drag down Australian shares; BHP, Westpac soar

  • "The stimulus provided by the government is having the desired effect ... looks like the cold winter for the banks is thawing out."
17 Feb 2021

Australian shares inched lower on Wednesday after two sessions of gains, as losses in healthcare and gold miners eclipsed huge strides made by iron ore mining giants and banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.3% to 6,897.60 by 2340 GMT, slipping from a one-year closing high scaled in the previous session.

Gold miners were the biggest percentage losers in the benchmark, shedding as much as 5% as bullion prices fell to their lowest in more than a week overnight on stronger US Treasury yields.

Northern Star Resources and Evolution Mining were among top losers, shedding up to 5.6% each and hitting their lowest since April 2020.

Healthcare stocks were down 2%, led by CSL Ltd and ASX-listed shares of Resmed Inc, which gave up 2.2% and 3.7%, respectively.

Grocery chain Coles Group slumped 6%, marking its biggest intraday fall since March 2020, after it warned of a moderation in sales in its biggest revenue generator supermarkets division in the second half and into fiscal 2022.

Meanwhile, Treasury Wine Estates declined 1% after adding nearly 3.5% in early trade as it said it would reorganise into three new divisions and reported a drop in its half-yearly profit.

Among gainers, financials rose up to 1%, with Westpac Banking Corp jumping 6% to hit its highest in nearly a year on reporting a higher first-quarter profit compared with the average of the previous two.

"Westpac results affirm the view that we are seeing shoots of green in credit growth and the housing market," said James McGlew, executive director, corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

"The stimulus provided by the government is having the desired effect ... looks like the cold winter for the banks is thawing out."

Miners added up to 2.1%, with BHP leading the pack, advancing nearly 5% to hit a record high.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index edged higher to 12,619.33.