December 19, 2018 / 6:16 AM / a month ago

Oil collapse hits Australian shares, but NZ up; Fed in focus

* Slowing global economy remains big worry, focus on Fed meet

* Energy sector hit by oil plunge

* New Zealand advances (Updates to close)

By Nikhil Subba

Dec 19 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell on Wednesday as plummeting oil prices hit energy stocks, while investors were also cautious before a crucial Federal Reserve rates meeting which is expected to reset U.S. monetary policy for the next year.

Oil prices sank more than 5 percent on Tuesday to levels last seen in August 2017 on fears of rising supply at a time of slowing demand.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.2 percent or 8.9 points to close at 5,580.60, but was off a 1-1/2-week intraday low when it fell 0.6 percent.

The Fed is expected to raise rates at the end of its meeting on Wednesday, though the main focus will be on whether policy makers will call a pause to their 3-year tightening spell. Market pricing and recent comments from senior Fed officials suggest a slowing, or possibly an imminent pause, in the U.S. rate-hike cycle.

The oil rout sent the energy index skidding 2.7 percent to its lowest in just over a year.

Top loser Origin Energy dropped 5.7 percent to over 1-1/2-year lows, while index heavyweight Santos Ltd fell nearly 4 percent to levels last seen in March this year.

The healthcare index declined 1.4 percent, with Mayne Pharma and Nanosonics Ltd leading the losses.

The banking sector managed to pull in some gains and helped the broad market downturn.

Shares of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) rose 1.1 percent, while National Australia Bank (NAB) closed 0.8 percent higher .

Shareholders voted against the executive remuneration plans of NAB and ANZ at their respective annual general meetings after a year of damaging misconduct revelations, which triggered sharp share price losses this year and undermined their growth plans.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.85 percent or 73.82 points to end at 8,762.19.

Sky Network TV advanced 8.5 percent to its highest in one week, while Ryman Healthcare rose 3.2 percent. (Reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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