Australian shares lower lead by Woolworths and Coles

Australian shares fell on Wednesday as consumer and property sectors weakened

Australia’s biggest supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles reported their earnings this week, with Woolworths reporting less than expected firs half-year profits on Wednesday.

It comes after Australia's second-biggest grocery chain, Coles posted a sharper-than-expected fall in half-year earnings on Tuesday.

Woolworths H1 report lower than expected

Woolworths said that subdued spending moved through its checkouts, pushing liquor earnings lower as customers shopped smarter, counting pennies. The supermarket said that sales were dragged down due to customers' spending habits, squeezing profit margins.

Woolworths Ltd fell 6.5% on Wednesday to its lowest in two months after posting lower than expected first-half profits, due to a prolonged slump in consumer sentiment.

Net profit for continuing operations rose about 2% to A$920 million ($660 million) for the six months to December 30, missing market expectations.

Coles H1 report causes shares to fall sharply

Coles said costs were rising faster than sales, saying it needed a ‘’strategic refresh’’ after its first results since parting ways with Westfarmers Ltd last year.

Coles posted a 14% fall in net profit to A$738 million ($526 million) for the six months to December 30.

Coles shares fell almost 4% in early trade on Wednesday, dropping to a one-week low before recovering slightly to trade 3% under Monday's close, while the broader market rose 0.4%.

BHP earnings lead gains

Wednesday gains were also led by the world's biggest miner BHP Group, as they reported their H1 earnings after the bell on Tuesday. BHP shares rose 2.2 % to the highest level since 2011. Analysts said BHP's report missed expectations.

Upbeat sentiment supported strong gains from other top miners such as Rio Tinto, which was up 2.5 % to a more than 10-year high.

a2 Milk Company boosted New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index which was up 0.3% or 23.82 points to 9,248.08.

a2 Milk Co Ltd shares also climbed 8.6% to an 11-month high after it reported a 55 % surge in half-year profit, as the company expanded its market share in China despite a slowing economy.

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