August 1, 2019 / 7:08 AM / 17 days ago

Australia shares drop on disappointing Fed outlook; NZ ekes out gain

* NZ market erases early losses

* Mining heavyweights BHP, Rio weigh on benchmark

* Gold, oil hit by falls in prices (Updates to close)

Aug 1 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Thursday as the U.S. Federal Reserve dashed investors’ hopes it would flag a series of rate cuts and the mining sector pulled down the benchmark on lower raw material prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.4% to 6788.90 at the close. The benchmark declined 0.5% on Wednesday.

The Fed on Wednesday made the first rate cut in a decade, but Chair Jerome Powell said the 25 basis points trim was “not the beginning of a long series of rate cuts”.

The cut had been widely expected, but many traders expected clear signals of future rate cuts.

Chris Weston, head of research at Pepperstone Group in Melbourne, said disappointment over not hearing what was hoped from Powell dented equity markets.

“In an easing cycle, it is the market that sets policy, not the Fed, and if you want to challenge that dynamic, we will see volatility,” he added.

The world’s two largest miners, BHP Group and Rio Tinto. both fell more than 1%, dragging the mining index to a near three-week low.

After Thursday’s market close, Rio kicked off the earnings season for major miners by announcing its biggest first-half profit since 2014.

Among biggest drags to the benchmark index were gold stocks . which declined 4.2%, its sharpest fall for a day in more than two years as prices for the metal slumped to a two-week low after the Fed’s post-meeting comments.

Gold producer Silver Lake Resources was the top loser on the benchmark, followed by peer Northern Star Resources.

Oil and gas heavyweights Santos and Woodside Petroleum also slipped after oil prices fell on the Fed’s outlook and how Sino-U.S. trade talks which ended without apparent progress.

This dragged the energy index 0.5% lower, its sharpest loss in almost two weeks.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index erased early losses and inched 0.03% higher to 10,860.82.

Mercury NZ Ltd rose about 4%, its biggest gain since July 5, while Meridian Energy climbed about 3%, its best session since July 16. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba and Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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