(Adds details, comments, stocks on the move)
SYDNEY, June 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 1.2 percent on Thursday, its largest one-day drop in two-weeks, as global equities tumbled after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke confirmed fears the U.S. central bank could begin to scale back its stimulus measures later this year.
“What caught the market off guard is that the Fed anticipates the pace of recovery in the labour market to be quicker than what the market previously predicted,” said Miguel Audencial, sales trader at CMC Markets.
“Consequently, the possibility of scaling down the current bond buying programme is likely to be sooner than what is currently priced in.”
Banks led the sell-off, with top lender the Commonwealth Bank of Australia down 1.8 percent while Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd both lost 2 percent. ANZ is considering a plan to move up to 600 call-centre jobs to the Philippines and New Zealand, media reported on Thursday.
The S&P/ASX 200 index dived 60.7 points to 4,800.7 by 0118 GMT. The benchmark rose 1 percent to close at a two-week high on Wednesday.
The Australian stock market has been hit hard recently on the Fed’s stimulus concerns, slowing growth in China and turbulence in Japanese equities.
“I think it’s a bit of an over-reaction of the market in the short term and we’ll probably see the market sell-off,” said Tim Radford, global analyst at Rivkin Securities.
Miners were trading lower, BHP Billiton Ltd tumbled 1.7 percent while rival Rio Tinto Ltd dropped 2.1 percent.
Investors are also cautious ahead of the release of the China HSBC flash PMI for June, due at 0145, for signals on momentum in Australia’s largest export market after its factory activity shrank for the first time in seven months in May as new orders fell.
U.S. stocks fell more than 1 percent on Wednesday after Bernanke said the central bank would start to reduce its stimulus measures later this year if the economy is strong enough.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX 50 index fell 1 percent or 44 points to trade at 4,401.6.
* New News Corp rocketed 19.9 percent ahead of the official split of the company next week.
* Goodman Group Pty Ltd tumbled 3.3 percent to A$4.94 after releasing its Q3 2013 operational update. The company said it expects its full-year earnings per security of $0.324.
* Linc Energy Ltd slid 2.1 percent to A$1.16 after entering into a letter of intent and services agreement with LLC YakutMinerals.
* Xceed Resources Ltd climbed 1 percent to A$0.10. The company is in discussions with a third party regarding a proposal to undertake a due diligence process.
Reporting by Thuy Ong; Editing by Jacqueline Wong