September 4, 2019 / 7:09 AM / 14 days ago

Australian shares end lower on global growth worries, but NZ rises

* Benchmark index down for a third straight day

* Financials, healthcare stocks lead falls

* Gold stocks rise more than 2% (Updates to close)

Sept 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell for a third straight day on Wednesday, pulled down by financial and healthcare firms as weak domestic growth data and a contraction in U.S. manufacturing activity rekindled fears of a slowdown in global growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.3% at 6,553. The benchmark inched down 0.1% on Tuesday.

Australia’s economy grew at its slowest pace in a decade last quarter, data showed on Wednesday, as tepid wage growth and a sharp downturn in home building weighed heavily on domestic consumption.

The GDP data “largely” justifies the central bank’s recent rate hold and “coupled with increasing risk to the global outlook suggest further easing is likely,” Su-Lin Ong, head of Australian and New Zealand fixed income and currency Strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said in a note.

Weak August manufacturing readings from the world’s largest economy added to concerns, indicating that Sino-U.S. trade tensions dented business confidence and stoked fears of a recession.

A weaker U.S. dollar weighed on Australia’s export-driven healthcare stocks, which have a large exposure to the U.S. market.

The healthcare index closed 1.4% lower, with CSL Ltd , the country’s fourth biggest firm by valuation, down 1.5%, and hospital operator Ramsay Health Care Ltd fell 1.1%.

Financial stocks, which have the biggest weighting in the benchmark, declined 0.3%. The “Big Four” banks lost between 0.1% and 0.4%.

Oil Search gained 3.3% and Santos rose 1.3%, far outperforming the broader energy index, which fell 0.2%.

For Oil Search, getting approval on Tuesday from the Papua New Guinea government for a gas deal made it the second biggest gainer on the market benchmark.

Gold stocks jumped 2.2%, boosted by the metal’s safe-haven appeal.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, which fell as much as 0.7% earlier in the day, ended up 0.5% at 11,008.13.

Payment platform Pushpay Holdings Ltd and film-industry focused software developer Vista Group International added 5.5% and 6.8%, respectively.

Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk

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