June 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares on Monday were set for
their steepest fall in nearly five weeks, as they tracked a
sell-off on Wall Street in the previous session on comments from
a Federal Reserve official on sooner-than-expected rate hikes.
The S&P/ASX 200 index lost 1.6% to 7,245.8 by 0114
Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei was down nearly 3% at
28110.28 and S&P 500 E-minis futures dipped 0.2%.
Wall Street's main indexes fell sharply on Friday after U.S.
central bank official James Bullard said he saw rate increases
beginning as early as next year to curb rising inflation,
spooking investors already worried about higher rates by
In the domestic market, financials declined the
most, shedding more than 3%. The so-called "Big Four" banks fell
between 2.1% and 4.4%.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's
largest lender, fell the most and its shares were down as much
CBA said it would sell its Australian general insurance
business to South Africa's biggest privately-owned insurer
Hollard Group for an upfront cash consideration of A$625
million, making a post-tax gain of A$90 million.
Gold stocks lost nearly 2%, with sector heavyweight
Newcrest Mining dipping 1.3%.
Energy stocks were down 1.8%, with Viva Energy
Miners dropped 1.7%, with mining giants BHP Group
and Rio Tinto falling 1.2% and 1.8%,
Among the few gainers, Boral Ltd was the biggest
gainer on the benchmark, up 2.4%, on divesting its North
American building products business to Westlake Chemical Corp
for $2.15 billion.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was roughly
flat at 12,533.16.
Power company Mercury NZ Ltd said it would buy
electricity generator Trustpower Ltd's gas,
telecommunications and retail electricity supply business for
NZ$441 million ($305.8 million).
Mercury's shares were among the top gainers, up as much as
(Reporting by Vasudha Kaukuntla in Bengaluru; editing by