(Updates to close)
March 20 Australian shares ended lower on
Monday, on worries over global trade protectionism with
financials and real estate stocks leading the losses.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.4 percent or 20.75
points, to 5,778.90 at the close of trade.
The benchmark snapped four sessions of gains after financial
leaders of the world's biggest economies dropped a pledge to
keep global trade free and open, giving way to an increasingly
protectionist United States after a two-day meeting failed to
yield a compromise.
Financials dragged the index the most with three of the "big
four" banks losing between 0.3 percent and 0.5 percent while
National Australia Bank Ltd gained 0.4 percent.
Real estate stocks were the second-biggest drag on the index
with Scentre Group Ltd closing 2.8 percent lower and
Westfield Corporation sliding 1 percent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 1.4
percent lower, or 101.09 points, to finish the session at
Material firms were the biggest drag on the index,
accounting for more than half of the market's losses after
Fletcher Building slumped as much as 13.2 percent,
posting its biggest percentage loss in more than five years.
New Zealand's biggest-listed construction company snapped
two sessions of gains after it cut its earnings forecast by
about 13 percent, as a nationwide worker shortage led to project
delays and increasing wage bills.
(Reporting by Sindhu Chandrasekaran in Bengaluru; Editing by