* Rio Tinto gains as much as 2.5 pct; BHP up 2.9 pct
* Market participants raise resources exposure
* Financials weigh most on Aussie benchmark
By Aaron Saldanha
April 11 (Reuters) - Australia shares slipped on Wednesday as investors switched to resource plays from defensive sectors on strength in commodities after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s comments about further opening the economy and lower tariffs on Tuesday.
Commodity prices were buoyed by the comments, while the export-influenced Australian dollar firmed, especially against safe haven currencies like the yen on Tuesday.
“Today, you see money likely flowing towards the resource stocks, I think it is a rotation,” said James McGlew, executive director for corporate stockbroking at Perth-based Argonaut.
The consumer staples, telcos and property trusts are traditionally seen as defensive parts of the market, he said.
The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 0.3 percent, or 19.2 points, to 5,837.8 by 0303 GMT. It rose 0.8 percent on Tuesday.
The financial index contributed the most to the benchmark’s weakness, falling as much as 0.9 percent. Westpac Banking Corp was the biggest drag on the main index, losing as much as 1.5 percent. Commonwealth Bank of Australia was the second largest contributor to the benchmark’s fall, down as much as 1 percent.
Resources stocks gained, with the Australian mining index rising up to 1.6 percent and on track to clock a fourth straight session of gains.
However, miner South32 Ltd lost as much as 2.6 percent after the company said its Cerro Matoso operation accepted the Colombian Constitutional Court order to pay damages to local communities and that the company plans to appeal.
Mining behemoth Rio Tinto traded up to 2.5 percent higher while rival BHP gained as much as 2.9 percent.
The most-traded September iron ore on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was up 0.8 percent.
Energy stocks also gained with the sector index rising up to 1.1 percent to its highest in more than two months. Services firm WorleyParsons Ltd was 4 percent higher.
New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 0.3 percent, or 27.17 points, to 8,442.6, hurt by consumer staples and materials.
Homebuilder Fletcher Building Ltd lost as much as 2.3 percent while medical devices maker Fisher & Paykel Healthcare Corp Ltd was 2.5 percent lower. (Reporting by Aaron Saldanha, Additional reporting by Karthika Namboothiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)