December 3, 2019 / 1:17 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares drop on fresh global trade concerns; NZ down

* All sector indexes on benchmark trade in red

* Santos bucks trend on 2025 production outlook lift

* New Zealand shares down 0.4%


By Aby Jose Koilparambil

Dec 3 (Reuters) - Australian shares posted their biggest intraday percentage loss in two months on Tuesday, as investor appetite was hit after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would restore import tariffs on steel from Brazil and Argentina.

Trump’s move is the latest sign that the trade disputes between the U.S. and its trading partners could continue to roil markets and fuel global growth concerns.

The U.S. has been locked in a bitter trade tussle with China, Australia’s top trade partner, for nearly one-and-a-half years now, with global markets turning volatile with regard to any trade talks progress or lack of it.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell about 2% to 6,725.80 by 0023 GMT. The benchmark had finished 0.2% higher on Monday, having gained in six of the last seven sessions on optimism that the Sino-U.S. trade war was drawing to a close.

On Monday, Trump targeted the two Latin American nations, announcing restoration of tariffs on U.S. steel and aluminium imports from the those countries in retaliation for currency weakness he said was hurting U.S. farmers.

Denting sentiment further, the U.S. said it could increase retaliatory tariffs on a wider range of European goods after the World Trade Organization rejected European Union claims that it no longer provides subsidies to planemaker Airbus.

“Whenever markets approach previous all-time highs, investors get nervous and they worry about whether the markets would be trading at these high levels... And, then what we need is a just a trigger and that came in the form of weak U.S. manufacturing data and tariff imposition on Brazilian and Argentinian steel,” said Christopher Conway, senior investment adviser at Marcus Today Financial Newsletter.

All sector-based sub-indexes on the Australian benchmark were trading lower, with technology and consumer stocks bleeding the most, posting an over 2% decline each.

The heavyweight financials fell sharply with all the Big Four banks losing between 1.2% and 1.7%.

In the metals and mining space, gold stocks dragged the sub-index down 1.7%, while diversified players BHP Group and Rio Tinto Ltd slipped about 1.8% and 1.4%, respectively.

Healthcare stocks, which had risen along with finance stocks in the previous session, shed around 1.8% with medical technology firm Avita Medical Ltd topping the percentage losers on the benchmark.

Australia’s No.2 independent gas producer Santos Ltd was one among the few stocks in the green, gaining as much as 1% after it upgraded its 2025 production outlook, indicating a cumulative annual growth rate of more than 8%.

Meanwhile, investors await the monetary policy decision, due later in the day, with a further cut to record low rates expected only early next year.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.4% to 11,255.79, with healthcare firm Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd and dairy firm a2Milk Co Ltd slipping 3% and 2.5%, respectively.

Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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