March 27, 2019 / 1:49 AM / 9 months ago

Australia shares near 5-wk lows as growth concerns weigh; NZ at record high

* Broad-based losses pull Aussie shares lower

* Financials account for most losses

* Gold stocks fall sharply as bullion prices drops

By Aditya Soni

March 27 (Reuters) - Australian shares teetered toward five-week lows on Wednesday as concerns about global growth dampened the mood, while financials dropped in the wake of parliamentary questioning of CEOs of two of the country’s “Big Four” banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 0.4 percent or 24.7 points to 6,105.9 by 0108 GMT, having tacked on a modest 0.1 percent on Tuesday.

Stock markets around the world were hit hard late last week after a sharp shift in U.S. bond markets suggested the world’s biggest economy might be facing trouble ahead.

The worries were fed by an inverted U.S. yield curve - rates on three-month Treasuries going above the 10-year paper - which has historically signalled an oncoming recession.

Asian equity markets were down as the U.S. growth anxiety added to broader concerns about the global economy.

Financial stocks dropped 0.5 percent to their lowest since Feb. 15 and accounted for most of the losses on the benchmark.

The Chief Executives of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ) and National Australia Bank Ltd (NAB) are facing a day of parliamentary questioning, the first such hearing since a landmark misconduct inquiry called for many rule changes last month.

ANZ shares dropped 0.7 percent to a near two-month low, while NAB traded 0.2 percent weaker.

Gold stocks, which had rallied in the last two sessions on safe-haven buying, also fell sharply as prices of the precious metal fell against a stronger U.S. dollar.

Newcrest Mining Ltd, the country’s top gold miner, slid 2.1 percent, for its worst day in over two-weeks, while St Barbara Ltd dropped as much as 4.3 percent.

Elsewhere, Eclipx Group Ltd saw its best day ever and was the top performer on the benchmark as it soared 18.9 percent after announcing it had received interest from multiple parties for its Grays and Right2Drive businesses.

Investment manager Challenger Ltd extended gains to hit a near three-week high. Challenger jumped 9.1 percent on Tuesday after it said top shareholder MS&AD Insurance Group Holdings Inc will raise its stake in the firm to over 15 percent and seek a board seat.

Rare earths miner Lynas Corp Ltd also advanced after declaring it would not engage with conglomerate Wesfarmers on its “highly conditional” $1.1 billion takeover approach

Wesfarmers shares were little changed.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.8 percent or 80.08 points to hit a record high of 9,653.9.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand held the official cash rate at a record low of 1.75 percent but revised its outlook to say the next move in borrowing costs was more likely to be down, boosting rate sensitive stocks.

Utilities and industrials stocks dominated the gains, with Meridian Energy Ltd and Auckland International Airport Ltd rising 1.8 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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