April 12, 2018 / 6:57 AM / 14 days ago

Australia shares slip on Syria, trade war concerns; NZ follows suit

* Financials drive losses; resource stocks gain

* New Zealand bans new offshore oil and gas exploration

* NZX recognises HK, Singapore, Toronto bourses for dual listings (Updates to close)

April 12 (Reuters) - Australia shares slid on Thursday as investors fretted over the threat of an imminent U.S. attack on Syria and China’s commerce ministry saying that trade negotiations with the United States would be impossible.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday of imminent military action in Syria, declaring missiles “will be coming” which led to major U.S. indices falling between 0.4 percent and 0.9 percent.

China’s commerce ministry said on Thursday that trade negotiations with the United States would be impossible because Washington’s attempts at dialogue were not sincere. The ministry vowed to retaliate if Trump escalated current tensions.

On Thursday, the S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.2 percent, or 13.2 points, to 5,815.5. It fell 0.5 percent on Wednesday.

The financial index contributed the most to the benchmark’s weakness, dropping 0.4 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.8 percent and weighed on the main index the most while Westpac Banking Corp, the second-largest contributor to the benchmark’s fall, , slipped 0.6 percent.

“The money is coming out of the banks...if you see the trade yesterday, banks were hit in the morning, lunch time and at the close,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist, Blue Ocean Equities.

He added that funds were likely taking money out of banks and putting it into resources, boosting materials.

Resource stocks were clear gainers on Thursday, with the Australian mining index firming 0.7 percent. Global miners Rio Tinto and BHP gained 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.

Energy stocks rose 0.4 percent as oil markets remained tense on Thursday on concerns over a military escalation in Syria. Beach Energy Ltd gained the most, up 1.8 percent.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.6 percent, or 49.5 points, to 8,404.22, as most sectors dropped.

Health care stocks and consumer staples fell the hardest, with medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd and a2 Milk Company Ltd losing 2.7 percent and 1.9 percent, respectively.

New Zealand said on Thursday it would not grant any new permits for offshore oil and gas exploration, surprising drillers with a decision they said would send investment overseas.

The government said the move would not affect the country’s 22 existing exploration permits, and any oil and gas discoveries from firms holding those licences could still lead to mining permits of up to 40 years.

Petroleum explorer New Zealand Oil and Gas Ltd said on Thursday it does not expect any adverse impact on business from the decision. Its shares dropped 2.4 percent to the lowest since August 2017.

Also on Thursday, New Zealand’s stock exchange (NZX) recognised the Hong Kong, Singapore and Toronto stock exchanges for equity listings. The deal allows dual listing for companies and exemptions from nearly all the NZX’s listing rules. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru; Editing by Eric meijer)

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