October 9, 2018 / 1:16 AM / 8 months ago

Australia shares slide as China growth concerns weigh; NZ drops

* China growth concerns push Aussie shares lower

* Healthcare stocks fall the most

* NZ falls on a2 Milk

By Aditya Soni

Oct 9 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell to a near four-month low on Tuesday as fears of slowing economic growth in the country’s largest trading partner China dented investor sentiment.

Broad-based losses pushed the S&P/ASX 200 index 0.9 percent or 56.40 points lower to 6,043.90 by 0100 GMT.

That came on top of a sharp 1.4 percent loss on Monday, when equity markets around the world slipped amid concerns over the fallout from the escalating U.S.-Sino trade war.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner and any changes in the economic fortunes there tends to dictate domestic market movements. Concerns about the economic hit from the trade war prompted China’s central bank over the weekend to step up liquidity support.

“US and China are setting up the scene for a prolonged trade war as China moves to take some pressure off the consumers through lending restrictions,” said Mathan Somasundaram, a market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities in Sydney.

Healthcare stocks led the losses as they fell 2.9 percent to their lowest since June 19.

Index Heavyweight CSL, whose second biggest market is China, declined 2.9 percent to a more than 3-1/2 month low, while Cochlear Ltd saw its worst day in two-months as it fell as much 7.1 percent.

Banks also added to the bearish sentiment, with the financial index down 0.3 percent.

Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell 0.5 percent to its lowest since June 15.

Earlier in the day, the country’s top lender said it will refund fees taken out of dead client accounts and unwind a controversial system of charging customers commissions on financial products.

The changes, sparked by damaging revelations from a powerful inquiry into financial sector misconduct, come during a time of upheaval for Australia’s biggest financial institutions which are facing unprecedented scrutiny from the public, courts and lawmakers.

The other big players in the banking sector, National Australia Bank Ltd and Macquarie Group Ltd gave up 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Materials stocks, especially miners who export a majority of their mined ore to China, were also in red.

The metals and mining index fell 0.6 percent, with global miner BHP dipping 0.4 percent.

Across the Tasman sea, New Zealand’s shares saw their worst day in nearly five-weeks. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell as much as 0.9 percent before trimming the losses to trade down 0.1 percent or 10.98 points to 9,136.120.

Consumer staples were among the top drags. Dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd, which makes a majority of its income in China, fell 3.3 percent to its lowest since August 2.

Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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