September 4, 2019 / 3:03 AM / 12 days ago

Australia shares in the red on global growth fears; NZ flat

* Financials, healthcare stocks lead declines

* Oil Search among top performers

* Gold stocks rise

By Shriya Ramakrishnan

Sept 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares slipped on Wednesday, after weak domestic economic data and trade concerns heightened fears of a slowdown in global economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.9% to 6,515.4 by 0220 GMT. 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 cash-strapped consumers went on strike, an urgent argument for more monetary and fiscal stimulus as headwinds mount globally.

Global market confidence was also dented after data on Tuesday showed that U.S. manufacturing activity contracted for the first time in three years in August, as Sino-U.S. trade tensions weighed on business confidence.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned he would be “tougher” on Beijing if negotiations extended beyond the 2020 U.S. presidential election and he is re-elected.

“The U.S. and China are still struggling to organise a meet, and hope of any type of positive dialogue, let alone a deal, is dropping swiftly,” Nick Twidale, director & co-founder at brokerage Xchainge said.

Financial stocks, the biggest constituent of the benchmark by market capitalisation, lost about 1.1%. The “Big Four” banks slumped between 0.8% and 1.3%.

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank and Bank of Queensland fell between 0.6% and 1.4%, after the country’s corporate regulator sued the two regional banks over what it called unfair loan contracts for small businesses.

Export-driven healthcare stocks declined as much as 1.8%, touching its lowest level in more than a week.

Biotech major CSL Ltd and Ramsay Health Care shed nearly 2% each.

Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea-based Oil Search rose 3.6% and was among the top performers on the benchmark stock index, after PNG on Tuesday said it would honour a gas deal, needed for Oil Search and its partners to proceed with an LNG expansion plan.

Gold stocks which were the lone gainers, jumped 2.4%, as wider market turmoil prompted investors to seek safety in the metal. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining advanced 3.1% each.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index was flat at 10,951.14. Energy retailer Contact Energy and dairy firm Synlait Milk traded between 2.2% and 2.9% lower.

Fonterra,, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, was down as much as 1.5%. The company on Wednesday said that a weaker Chinese yuan is hurting consumer purchasing power for its U.S. dollar-priced dairy products. (Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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