June 21, 2017 / 7:02 AM / in 4 months

Miners and banks drag Australia shares lower; NZ down

(Updates to close)

June 21 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Wednesday, as miners came under pressure from falling iron ore prices while negative sentiment in the market spurred selling in banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.6 percent, or 91.55 points, lower to end the session at 5,665.70.

The drop in Chinese steel futures on Tuesday after a four-day rise weighed on iron ore which dragged metals and mining stocks to their lowest in more than a month and a half.

Miners BHP Billiton Ltd was down 3.8 percent, its lowest close in nearly nine months while Rio Tinto was down 2.9 percent.

Financial stocks posted a second session of losses with the country’s “Big Four” lenders losing between 1.7 and 2.7 percent.

Energy stocks tumbled 2.6 percent following a decline in oil prices. Additionally, the stocks were also hurt by the Australian government’s decision to delay proposed curb on exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from eastern Australia.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd dropped 2.1 percent while Santos the operator of the Gladstone LNG plant in Queensland, the only LNG producer that has been taking gas out of the domestic market to meet its export contracts, hit a more than year low.

“The energy stocks are not being helped by the decision of the Australian government to put a limit on gas exports next year, which increases political risk in the sector,” said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.8 percent, or 59.42 points, lower to finish the session at 7,527.11

Consumer cyclicals lost the most with Fletcher Building Ltd falling 2.8 percent.

The next big event is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s rate decision on Thursday, in which the central bank is expected to keep rates steady.

Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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