March 2, 2020 / 1:54 AM / a month ago

Australian shares fall to 9-month low after dismal China manufacturing; NZ down

* Australia’s financial regulators in emergency meeting - source

* RBA likely to cut rates by 25 bp on Tuesday - Westpac

* Fortescue drops 12.6%, trades ex-div

* NZ slumps about 10.3% since Feb. 21 peak

By Niyati Shetty

March 2 (Reuters) - Australian shares stumbled about 3% on Monday, extending a six-day rout, after dismal Chinese manufacturing data painted a grim picture of the potential damage to the global economy from the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 2.9%, or 187 points, to 6,254.2 by 0058 GMT, falling to its lowest in more than nine months.

The benchmark lost 9.8% last week, its biggest decline since the 2008 global financial crisis, after entering into correction territory on Friday.

In the first proper glimpse of the virus’ economic impact, a survey released over the weekend showed China’s factory activity contracted to a record low of 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January.

Australia’s financial regulators will discuss the impact of the outbreak on Australia’s $1.3 trillion economy in an emergency meeting on Monday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Adding to contagion fears, Australia on Sunday reported its first death from the virus with the tally of confirmed cases also rising by one to 26.

There is a global sell-off across stocks and other assets, even gold, as investors try to cover their risk positions and liquidate their assets for cash during this virus-induced panic period, said Henry Jennings, senior analyst and portfolio manager at Marcus Today.

The local gold sub-index slumped up to 5.7% as bullion prices recorded their biggest daily drop in almost seven years on Friday.

Gold heavyweight Newcrest Mining dropped 4.6% and Northern Star Resources declined 7.1%.

Iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group plunged 12.6%, weighing on the broader mining sector, as the firm’s shares trade ex-dividend.

The dire data from China, Australia’s biggest importer of raw materials, also led to global miners BHP Group Ltd and Rio Tinto falling 5.1% and 4.4%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the U.S. central bank on Friday hinted that it may trim key rates later this month, fuelling speculation that the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will cut interest rates at its policy meeting on Tuesday.

“The developments over the weekend have prompted us to move our RBA 25 basis point rate cut call from April to March,” Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac, said in a note.

However Marcus Today’s Jennings said that a rate cut is unlikely to provide any substantial support to the economy without stimulus measures from the government.

The country’s cash rate is at a record low of 0.75% after three cuts last year.

Australia’s so called “Big Four” banks slumped between 3.5% and 4.3%, with No. 2 lender Westpac Banking Corp slipping to its lowest since July 2012.

New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slid into correction territory on Monday, falling about 10.3% since its last peak on Feb. 21.

The bourse was down 3.1%, or 350.36 points, at 10,910.8 as at 0052 GMT, falling to a more than three-month low.

Synlait Milk dropped 8.3% and was the worst performer on the index.

Reporting by Niyati Shetty in Bengaluru; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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