May 7, 2020 / 7:22 AM / 23 days ago

Australia shares fall as financials, energy stocks weigh; NZ up

* Financials worst performer

* Trade war jitters batter energy index

* Rise in copper prices help miners (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

May 7 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Thursday, pressured by energy and financial stocks, after dismal U.S. data and renewed U.S.-China tensions raised concerns of a slow global economic recovery.

U.S. private employers laid off a record 20.236 million workers in April, as mandatory business closures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak savaged the world’s largest economy.

“Australian April jobs data also due next week so (the U.S. data) is some potential foresight into our own numbers next Thursday,” said James Tao, market analyst at CommSec.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.4% lower at 5,364.20 points, after shedding 0.4% on Wednesday. The index is off 25.6% from its lifetime high on Feb. 20, 2020​.

Investors remained on edge as relations between Washington and Beijing turned sour after President Donald Trump earlier in the month threatened retaliatory measures against China as punishment for the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Trump said on Wednesday he would be able to report in about a week or two whether China is fulfilling its obligations under a Phase 1 trade deal the two countries signed in January before the virus spread globally.

The top percentage losers on the Australian benchmark were waste management company Bingo Industries Ltd, down 5.3%, and analytical laboratory and testing company ALS Ltd , which lost 5.3%.

The worst performer was the heavyweight financial index down 1.5% weighed down by the Big Four banks.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, National Australia Bank Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell about 2% each.

Morgan Stanley expects shares of Commonwealth Bank of Australia to fall over the next 2 months, as higher provisions relating to COVID-19 and lower profits may result in investors losing some confidence in the bank’s dividend outlook.

The Australian energy index closed 1.1% lower, led by Cooper Energy Ltd, down 5%, and Oil Search , off 2.7%.

Among the gainers, the ASX 300 metals and mining index rose 0.7% helped by a rise in copper prices.

Mining giant BHP Group rose 1.9% and Fortescue Metals finished up 1.7% .

The number of issues on the ASX that advanced were 747, while 806 declined as a 0.9-to-1 ratio favoured decliners. There were 206 new highs and 192 new lows.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index settled 0.7% higher at 10,649.23.

The top gainers were electronic payments company Pushpay Holdings Ltd, which closed 12.9% up, and Tourism Holdings Ltd, which climbed 11%. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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