Australian shares end lower as banks, Woolworths drag
By Harish Sridharan
June 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares pulled back from record highs to end lower in thin trade on Wednesday, weighed down by declines in financial stocks and supermarket giant Woolworths.
The S&P/ASX 200 index .AXJO gained as much as 0.6% in early trading but reversed course to close 0.3% lower at 7,270.2. It ended 0.1% higher on Tuesday.
"We are searching for direction. Having hit record highs, we are searching for the next leg up, but it's hard to get enthused about the market at the moment," said Henry Jennings, senior analyst at Marcustoday Financial Newsletter.
The heavyweight financial sector .AXFJ fell 0.5%, with National Australia Bank NAB.AX closing at a nearly three-week low. The rest of the "Big Four" banks also closed in the red.
Australia's biggest supermarket chain Woolworths WOW.AX shed 1.9%, its sharpest fall in six weeks, after local media reported that an independent review found failings by the firm over its plan to build a liquor store near alcohol-free communities in Darwin.
Gold stocks .AXGD also saw losses, with sector heavyweight Newcrest Mining NCM.AX dropping 0.7%.
Australia's major miners were a bright spot, with Fortescue Metals Group FMG.AX rising 1%, while the broader sector .AXMM added 0.2%.
Reserve Bank of Australia's assistant governor, Chris Kent, said on Wednesday the central bank's policy measures will continue to deliver "very stimulatory monetary conditions" until inflation and employment targets are met.
Producer prices in China, Australia's largest trading partner, rose at their fastest annual pace in over 12 years in May on surging commodity prices, although that has yet to translate into much higher consumer prices.
Adding to dour sentiment, a measure of Australian consumer sentiment fell for a second month in June as a lockdown in Victoria state darkened the mood despite signs of strength across the economy.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index .NZ50 closed 0.4% higher at 12,566.5, with movie software maker Vista Group VGL.NZ as the top gainer.
(Reporting by Harish Sridharan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)
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