August 2, 2018 / 7:05 AM / 4 months ago

Australian shares fall as BHP and Rio Tinto take hits; NZ edges lower

* Rio Tinto sees worst day in over 4-months on H1 profit miss

* BHP hits 1-week low, workers vote to strike at Chile copper mine

* U.S.-China trade tensions dent commodity prices (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Nainan

Aug 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares slid on Thursday, pulled down by global miners BHP and Rio Tinto, which took hits battering their stock prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.6 percent, or 34.8 points to 6,240.9 at the close of trade. The benchmark edged down slightly on Wednesday.

“It is turning out today is quite a bad day for our materials players,” said Christopher Conway, head of research and trading at Australian Stock Report.

Shares of BHP, already down earlier because of lower commodity prices, were further impacted as workers at its Escondida mine in Chile, the world’s biggest copper mine, voted to strike. For the day, the stock fell 3.3 percent.

Meanwhile, shares of Rio Tinto had their worst day in over four months, falling 4.9 percent after reporting first-half underlying earnings below market expectations.

Concerns about higher inflation and reliance on iron ore for the bulk of its profits further dented confidence, and contributed to Rio’s shares dropping to a more than three-month low.

The miner’s London-listed shares also dropped on Wednesday, despite the company earmarking an additional $1 billion to buy back London-listed stock.

Also hurting market sentiment was U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff threat of 25 percent instead of 10 percent on $200 billion worth of imported Chinese goods, ratcheting up trade tensions.

Copper, iron ore, among other commodities, all slid on the potential hit to demand that escalating trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies may have, with the metals and mining sub-index down 2.8 percent.

Among the few stocks in positive territory, were Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Treasury Wine Estates, up 0.2 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 0.1 percent or 10.76 points to finish at 8,849.16.

Fletcher Building and telecommunications firm Spark New Zealand were the biggest drags, falling 1.6 percent and 1.3 percent, but losses were capped by gains from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corporation Ltd. (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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