Energy stocks push Australian shares lower; BHP Group rises

Jan 19 (Reuters) – Australian shares slipped on Thursday as energy stocks slid after weak U.S data and the Federal Reserve’s hawkish comments stirred worries of a continued rate-hike cycle, while BHP Group rose after reporting higher quarterly output.

The S&P/ASX 200 index edged 0.1% lower to 7,385.7 by 2333 GMT. The benchmark on Wednesday had touched its highest in 8-1/2 months.

U.S retail sales and producer prices fell more than expected in December, while St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester stressed on the need to raise rates beyond 5% to tame inflation.

Investors now await Australia’s unemployment data for December, which is due later in the day.

Energy stocks were the top losers, dropping 1.7%, with sector majors Woodside Energy and Santos down 1.4% each.

Santos trimmed its fiscal 2023 production guidance after posting lower-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue.

AGL Energy was down 0.5%. The power producer named interim boss Damien Nicks as its permanent chief executive, months after its botched demerger plans forced the resignation of its CEO and other top executives.

Miners added 0.22%, with iron ore behemoth BHP up 0.7% after posting a strong quarterly iron ore shipments that edged past expectations.

Tech stocks slipped 1%. ASX-listed shares of Block Inc tumbled 3%.

Gold stocks declined 0.8% on weak bullion prices, with the country’s Newcrest Mining down 0.2%.

Financials marginally gained by 0.01%. Westpac gained 0.2%, while the other three of the “Big Four” banks skidded 0.1%-0.3%.

Ultrasound disinfector producer Nanosonics soared 10.8% and was the top gainer on the ASX.

Link Administration slipped 0.2% after its UK unit was hit by another group action lawsuit in England.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3% to 11,885.75 points. (Reporting by Navya Mittal in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)