Aust shares slip as banks, energy drag
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Australian shares have closed lower on Tuesday, as reports of fresh investigations into financial institutions kept investors on edge, while overall sentiment was cautious ahead of key economic data.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index ended 23.8 points, or 0.38 per cent lower, at 6,287.1 points, while the broader All Ordinaries index was down 22.4 points, or 0.35 per cent, at 6,394.1 points.
Financial stocks came under pressure on indications the country's superannuation regulator is opening up fresh investigations into the sector, following revelations of widespread wrongdoings in the banking royal commission inquiry.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said Westpac had agreed to pay a $35 million fine after admitting to wrongly assessing people's ability to repay mortgages.
Initial findings by the royal commission are expected to be submitted to the government by the end of September.
Markets barely budged on the widely-expected decision by the Reserve Bank to keep its key interest rate at an all-time low of 1.5 per cent, and a change seems no nearer even as commercial banks nudge up their home loan rates to protect profit margins.
Energy stocks were the biggest drag, with Whitehaven Coal sliding 7.6 per cent, partly on account of the stock trading ex-dividend.
Healthcare and materials shares, however, ended higher helped by gains in BHP Billiton, Fortescue Metals, Cochlear and CSL.
Investors will be awaiting details of Australia's national accounts on Wednesday, with economists tipping GDP to grow 0.7 per cent in the June quarter, which would mean the economy expanded by 2.8 per cent on an annual basis.
The Aussie dollar was at 72.05 US cents at 1700 AEST, up from 71.90 US cents on Monday.
On the ASX:
* The S&P/ASX200 closed down 23.8 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 6,287.1 points
* The All Ordinaries was down 22.4 points, or 0.35 per cent, at 6,394.1 points
* In futures trading the SPI200 futures index was down 29 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 6,271 points at 1615 AEST.
CURRENCY SNAPSHOT AT 1700 AEST:
One Australian dollar buys:
* 72.05 US cents, from 71.90 US cents on Monday
* 80.23 Japanese yen, from 79.75
* 62.22 euro cents, from 61.98
* 56.09 British pence, from 55.66
* 109.47 NZ cents, from 108.77
The spot price of gold in Sydney at 1700 AEST was $US1,195.00 per fine ounce, down from $US1,199.39 per fine ounce on Monday.