March 9, 2017 / 6:29 AM / 8 months ago

Australia shares falter on weak oil; NZ also down

(Updates to close)

By Aparajita Saxena

March 9 (Reuters) - Australian share markets slipped on Thursday for a second day, dragged by materials, after losses in overnight oil prices sparked a heavy sell-off in the energy sector.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 18.45 points or 0.32 percent to 5,741.2 at the close of trade.

Oil prices dived 5 percent to their lowest this year on Wednesday, as U.S. crude inventories surged much more than expected to a record high, stoking concerns a global glut could persist even as OPEC tries to prop up prices with output curbs.

Prices recovered marginally in Asian trading, but failed to appease investors. The energy index tumbled to a 3 month low, with oil majors Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Beach Energy leading losses.

BHP Billiton recoiled 5.03 percent and fell to its lowest in three months after its shares started trading ex-dividend.

Weak copper prices on Wednesday further capped gains in BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which fell 2.04 percent.

The financial sector was the sole gainer in Australia, with all of the “Big Four” banks in positive territory.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.52 percent or 37.2 points to finish the session at 7,140.9, hurt by materials.

Fletcher Building slipped 3.36 percent.

Exchange operator NZX Ltd fell 4.5 percent, snapping the previous session’s gains.

Reporting by Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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