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Australia shares at 5-year closing low

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posted on Feb, 24 2009 @ 05:02 AM
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SYDNEY, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 0.6 percent to a five-year closing low on Tuesday as banking stocks dropped on fresh worries about the financial system, while travel firm Flight Centre Ltd tumbled on a weak profit report. Still, Australian shares fared better relative to their regional peers, helped by gains in oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd and gold miners on expectations bullion prices would keep rising as a refuge from volatile markets worldwide. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index shed 19.6 points to 3,331.6, based on the latest available data, its lowest close since February 2004. The index is now down 10.5 percent in 2009, adding to last year's 42 percent slide. New Zealand shares fell 2 percent to 2,487.5. Analysts said the Australian market was showing some resilience, reflecting a view that the local economy was better placed to withstand the global crisis and that any bad news from local companies had been factored in. 'The November lows are not too far away, and there's a likelihood we may test them, but we are in the last week of reporting season and most of the worst news has already been absorbed,' said Jamie Spiteri, senior dealer at Shaw Stockbroking. Australian travel retailer Flight Centre Ltd shed 9.2 percent to A$5.35 after reporting a 57.4 percent drop in first-half net profit after tax, hurt by sluggish sales and one-off charges.. Suncorp-Metway Ltd, Australia's second-biggest car and home insurer and fifth largest bank, fell 4.8 percent to A$4.75 after the group reported a fall in profit and said its chief financial officer would also leave the group. Chief Executive John Mulcahy will leave on March 2.




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