December 4, 2019 / 12:17 AM / 5 days ago

Australia shares fall as trade optimism collapses

* All financial stocks in benchmark bleed

* Third-quarter GDP data awaited

* NZ benchmark down up to 0.5%

By Aby Jose Koilparambil

Dec 4 (Reuters) - Australian shares extended losses on Wednesday as a resurgence in concerns about global trade tensions hit Wall Street stocks and weighed on the mining and financials sectors.

Recent optimism the Sino-U.S. trade dispute may be close to a resolution waned as U.S. President Trump suggested the deal might have to wait longer, while Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed new tariffs on Chinese imports would take effect on Dec. 15 as scheduled.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slid about 1.4% to 6,620.20 by 2349 GMT, after declining 2.2% in the previous session, where it posted its biggest daily drop in two months.

Fresh trade woes had gained momentum on Monday after Trump said he would restore tariffs on steel imported from Brazil and Argentina, in the latest sign that the disputes between U.S. and trading partners will continue to rattle markets.

“The market remains incredibly sensitive to trade developments. The lack of urgency to cut a deal was presented ... as very real,” RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a note. Heavyweight financial stocks bore the brunt of the sell-off with all constituents in the sub-index trading in the red. The “big four” lenders slipped in the range between 1.3% and about 2%.

Miners BHP Group and Rio Tinto felt the heat, declining up to 2.8% and 3.4%, respectively, despite the rising iron ore prices after the world’s largest miner of the steel-making material, Vale SA, lowered its production outlook.

Sub-indexes for healthcare, technology and consumer stocks sank more than 1.5% each.

Gold stocks, however, benefited on safe haven demand with bullion prices jumping more than 1% on Tuesday.

St Barbara and Newcrest Mining advanced about 2% and 0.7%, respectively.

Meanwhile, investors await third quarter gross domestic product data for clues on how the economy is responding to interest rate cuts this year.

The Australian economy has struggled for traction for some time and it grew at its slowest pace in a decade in the second quarter as cash-strapped consumers held back spending.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell about as much as 0.5% to 11,174.50, its lowest level in more than a month.

Agribusiness company Scales Corp and dairy firm a2Milk Co Ltd lost about 2% each. (Reporting by Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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