(Updates to close)
By Nikhil Nainan
July 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Wednesday, erasing nearly all their gains from the previous session with financials bearing the brunt of the losses.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent to 6,183.4 at the close of trade, below Tuesday’s finish at 6,210.2.
Shares fell despite retail sales data for the month of May coming in slightly higher than expected, rising 0.4 percent.
Still, annual growth in retail sales slowed to a sombre 2.5 percent, well below the 5 percent-plus that used to be considered commonplace.
“The retail sector has been under sustained pressure for many years,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets and Stockbroking.
Financial stocks accounted for around a half of the losses on the benchmark as investors booked profits, with the main financial index down 0.7 percent.
Platinum Investment Management, which has investments in China, was the top percentage loser, closing about 9 percent lower to a near 11-month nadir as trade war concerns weakened Chinese asset prices.
Among the “Big Four” banks, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank of Australia were the biggest drags, falling 1.3 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively.
A slight recovery in commodity prices helped steady the resources sector after China’s central bank assured markets it would keep the yuan stable.
BHP pared earlier losses to close flat, while Rio Tinto fell 0.8 percent. The metals and mining index closed 0.1 percent lower.
The benchmark gold index climbed 1 percent, supported by gold prices hitting a one-week high as the U.S. dollar softened.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.3 percent, or 27.95 points to finish the session at 9,025.64.
a2 Milk Company was the worst performer on the index, falling 3.4 percent after strong gains in the previous session when its supply contract with Synlait Milk was extended. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Mensholong Lepcha Editing by Shri Navaratnam)