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Bank majors drag Australia shares lower

NAB, Australia’s No. 3 lender, reported a 51% plunge in first-half profit and said it earmarked more money to guard against the effects on business from the coronavirus pandemic.

A subindex of financial stocks gave up 1.4%. Though trading in NAB shares was halted, peers Westpac and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shed more than 3% each and were the biggest losers on the benchmark index.

They led the S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.4% to 5,224.5 by 0035 GMT. Last week, it recorded its first weekly drop in five, mainly due to a historic crash in oil prices that cast doubt over the speed of economic recovery.

The Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the U.S. Federal Reserve are all due to meet this week. After unprecedented efforts to boost liquidity in markets following the coronavirus outbreak, their stance on future policy will interest markets.

“For now, central banks will continue to buy, to pre-empt the risk of markets relapsing back to bearish waves of selling in May,” Mizhuo Bank analysts said.

Countries around the world are also beginning to ease restrictions put in place because of the pandemic.

With several U.S. states as well as European economies looking to lift at least some curbs on movement and activity by next week, markets are also eyeing signs from governments, central banks and companies on how they plan to return to normalcy after weeks of disruption.

The New Zealand stock market was closed for a holiday. 

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