Australia shares shed 1.1 pct

Australian stocks fell 1.1 percent on Friday,taking losses to the second consecutive week.

Written by Agencies | Sydney | Published:August 20, 2010 1:12 pm

Australian stocks fell 1.1 percent on Friday,taking losses to the second consecutive week after sluggish U.S. data raised the prospect of a double-dip recession and pushed investors toward safe haven assets.

Investors were also on edge after opinion polls indicated Saturdays Australian federal election was an extremely close call and may result in a hung parliament that could leave key policy decisions in limbo.

BHP Billiton,which made a $39 billion hostile bid for Potash Corp earlier this week,fell 1 percent to A$37.9,a one month low. Potash Corp was said to be seeking a rival buyer to top BHPs bid.

Sentiment toward BHP was also hit by speculation that regulators will reject its $116 billion iron ore joint venture with Rio Tinto. Rio lost 2.2 percent to A$71.58.

The lead from U.S. was quite week and local corporate results so far have not been strong enough to offset the negative mood,Shane Oliver,head of investment strategy at AMP Capital said.

He said the election result could trigger a knee jerk reaction on Monday but after that,the global economy and the corporate results would determine the mood.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 48.12 points to 4,430.90,its lowest level in a week,according to latest available data. For the week,the index fell 0.6 percent. New Zealands benchmark NZX 50 index fell 1 percent to 3,004.4.

Besides miners,top banks fell,though Australia and New Zealand Banking Group bucked the trend,gaining 1.7 percent,after reporting a 37 percent jump in quarterly profit.

AWB shares rose 2.4 percent after it said Canadas Agrium Inc has completed due diligence after putting in a bid to buy the wheat exporter for A$1.2 billion ($1.07 billion),an offer which trumps a bid by local rival GrainCorp.

Gold producers New Crest Mining and Lihir Gold climbed over 1 percent after gold prices held near a 1.5 month high as investors fled to the safety of bullion.

Shares in surfwear retailer Billabong fell 9.9 percent to A$8.03,its lowest level in more-than a year after posting a 5 percent fall in full-year profit.

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