November 20, 2018 / 6:10 AM / 5 months ago

Australia shares close lower on Wall St's tech sell-off, NZ also down

* Late gains in financials help index pare some of the losses

* Fletcher Building NZ’s top loser after weak 2019 guidance (Updates to close)

By Rashmi Ashok

Nov 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Tuesday, after a sell-off in tech stocks dragged Wall Street, though managed to pare majority of the losses as financials and miners notched surprise gains late in the day.

Global stocks shuddered after U.S. tech stocks came under heavy selling on Monday, burdened by worries on slackening demand, while conflicting signals between the United States and China on their trade dispute added to caution.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.38 pct or 21.90 points to 5,671.80 at the close. On Monday, the benchmark dropped 0.6 percent.

The technology index tumbled 3 percent, with sector heavyweights Computershare Ltd and Xero Ltd down 1.6 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

Australia’s healthcare sector, which has large exposure to U.S. markets, recorded steep losses. CSL Ltd slumped 3.6 percent and Ramsay Health Care Ltd slipped 0.9 percent.

Energy stocks weakened 1.1 percent to close at a seven-month low, after oil prices slipped on a deteriorating economic outlook and a surge in U.S. production.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd tumbled 1 percent, while Santos Ltd slid 2.1 percent.

Bucking the trend, financial stocks made a U-turn to close 0.5 percent higher, reducing losses by the benchmark.

All “Big Four” banks reversed losses to end higher, with Westpac Banking Corp gaining 1.3 percent and National Australia Bank firming 1.1 percent.

“It’s a risk mitigation model that’s kicked in... global investors reallocate money out of emerging markets into Australia,” said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

Late gains in global miner BHP and rival Rio Tinto Ltd helped the metals and mining index reverse course to edge up.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.83 percent or 72.63 points to finish the session at 8,720.30.

Fletcher Building Ltd was the top percentage loser on the kiwi benchmark, plunging 10.8 percent to a 9-year low after providing lower earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) guidance for 2019, due to a slowdown in the residential market. (Reporting by Rashmi Ashok in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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