* Australian shares set to snap four sessions of gains
* Miners biggest weight on Australian stocks
* New Zealand shares ease from Monday’s record high
By Ambar Warrick
March 5 (Reuters) - Australian shares traded lower on Tuesday as investors locked in profits after a series of strong gains, while a weak lead-in from U.S. equities also dampened appetite.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 percent or 35.6 points to 6,181.7 by 0025 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.4 percent on Monday.
“Last week there was more optimism between China and the U.S., and Australia - being a proxy for the Chinese market - we obviously went up on that,” said Caleb Weng, Research Analyst with the Australian Stock Report.
“And now, because it was trading on rumours, there’s going to be some profit taking after the bull run.”
Risk appetite was further hurt after China, the country’s biggest trading partner, cut its growth target for this year to 6.0 to 6.5 percent, in line with expectations, from around 6.5 percent last year.
Mining stocks were the biggest weights on the benchmark, with the subindex losing about 1 percent. Mining stocks are heavily exposed to Chinese markets and have gained about 14 percent this year on optimism about an end to the trade tiff with the United States.
BHP Group and Rio Tinto, the largest mining stocks on the ASX 200, shed about 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.
Industrial stocks also declined, with mining contractor CIMIC Group shedding more than 2 percent. A number of industrial stocks provide mining and logistic services to Australian miners, which ties their share prices together.
Financial stocks also retreated slightly, having gained for the past four sessions. The financial subindex shed about 0.5 percent, having touched a more than five-month high on Monday.
Insurance Australia Group and Suncorp Group fell 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, while the country’s big four banks trended slightly lower.
Grocery chain Coles Group fell as much as 1.6 percent after it said it would sign over its hotel business to private equity player KKR at a loss. Consumer conglomerate Wesfarmers, which holds a roughly 15 percent stake in Coles, dipped 0.9 percent.
Investors also awaited the outcome of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s policy meeting later in the day, although most participants expect the bank to stand pat on its record-low rates.
“We will look at the RBA’s comments on the housing market and wage growth, because that will give us an indicator of the next rate cut,” Weng said.
Meanwhile, New Zealand stocks retreated after hitting a record high on Monday, with most sectors in the red. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 percent or 15.58 points to 9,397.91.
The New Zealand shares of Westpac Banking Corp dropped nearly 0.4 percent, while telecommunications provider Spark New Zealand shed 0.5 percent.
Bucking the trend, milk producer Fonterra rose about 0.9 percent after it appointed Miles Hurell as permanent chief executive of the co-operative.
Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin