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Australian shares fall on fear U.S.-China trade fight to worsen; NZ down

Fri 31st August, 2018 7:57am
* Telecom stocks falter, sheds Thursday's advance
    * Weaker commodity prices hurt material stocks
    * Australian, NZ shares down for day, but gain for the week

 (Updates to close)
    By Nikhil Nainan
    Aug 31 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Friday, as
investors feared an escalation in U.S.-China trade frictions and
sold telecom shares that advanced a day earlier on a merger deal
announced by TPG and Vodafone's Australian unit. 
    The S&P/ASX 200 index  .AXJO  closed 0.5 percent lower at
6,319.5, but added 1.2 percent for the week.
    Telecom stocks suffered the heaviest losses, a day after
rising as TPG Telecom  TPM.AX  and Hutchison Telecommunications
(Australia)  HTA.AX , Vodafone Group's  VOD.L  Australian unit,
agreed to merge into a larger third player in the sector.
    TPG dropped more than 7 percent while Hutchison plunged more
than 25 percent.
    Telstra  TLS.AX  , which gained on Thursday, shed 4 percent.
It faces a review into its copper network by the Australian
Competition and Consumer Commission.*:nL3N1VM1DM
    Bloomberg reported that U.S. President Donald Trump is ready
to impose tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese imports as
soon as a public comment period on the plan ends next week.*:nL2N1VL1AL
    Official data that showed China's manufacturing sector
unexpectedly picked up in August, after a two-month slide, did
little to boost confidence, even in the resource space, as trade
tensions were on investors' minds.*:nL3N1VI2R1
    China is Australian largest trading partner. 
    Trump's latest salvo saw commodity prices slip, undermining
material stocks, resulting in the sector index  .AXMM  falling
1.7 percent.  MET/L 
    "It is going to continue to potentially trouble the base
metal complex. Saying that, we have a natural Aussie dollar
hedge which helps out but uncertainty is no friend to the
market," Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.
    "I think the tariff issue is not going away in the short
    Global miners BHP  BHP.AX  and Rio Tinto  RIO.AX  fell 1.7
percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. 
    The only sector eking out some gains was health care. The
weaker Aussie dollar helped prop up shares in a sector reliant
on exports and overseas operations.  AUD/ 
    Primary Health Care  PRY.AX  and Ramsay Health Care  RHC.AX 
topped the gains, up 3 percent and 2.2 percent. 
    New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index  .NZ50  fell 0.3
percent, or 26.68 points to 9,313.2, but closed the week 1.7
percent higher. It was the market's fourth straight weekly gain.
    Shares of the world's biggest dairy exporter Fonterra
Co-operative Group  FCG.NZ  declined 0.2 percent. It cut its
farmgate milk price for 2018-2019 by 3.6 percent.*:nL3N1VL6BK 
    a2 Milk Company  ATM.NZ  and Synlait Milk  SML.NZ  fell 0.6
percent and 2.3 percent, respectively. 

 (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by
Richard Borsuk)
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