* Financials weigh on index, fall up to 3%
* Local tech stocks hit near one-month low
* AstraZeneca puts COVID-19 vaccine trial on hold
* NZ stocks hit near three-week low
Sept 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell to their lowest in more than five weeks on Wednesday, with tech stocks getting hammered the most as investors took cues from declines in the U.S. blue-chip technology sector that sent the Nasdaq into correction territory.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.4% to 5,866.1 by 0030 GMT, its lowest since Aug. 3, after Tuesday’s 1% gain.
All three major U.S. stock indexes closed in negative territory overnight as heavyweight tech firms like Apple Inc , Microsoft Corp and Amazon Inc took a beating.
Australian technology stocks followed their U.S. peers lower, losing nearly 4% to hit their lowest since Aug. 13.
Buy-now-pay-later firm Afterpay gave up 6.6%, while software firm Xero lost 3.5%.
Financials were the top drags on the benchmark index with a drop of up to 3%. Major lenders Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corp shed up to 3.3% each.
Energy stocks declined as much as 3.7%, hitting their lowest since May 4, as oil prices fell sharply overnight.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca said it had paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates after an unexplained illness in a study participant.
Australian biotech firm CSL Ltd had said earlier this week it would manufacture AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine. CSL shares were down up to 3.1%.
In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped as much as 1.2% to 11,752.780, its lowest since Aug. 21.
Financials were the top losers on the index, with local shares of Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group shedding up to 1.9% and 2.1%, respectively. (Reporting by Sameer Manekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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