September 18, 2018 / 2:50 AM / in a month

Australian shares slip as trade war hits materials and energy stocks; NZ flat

* Financials limit index losses

* Falling gold and copper prices hit miners

By Aditya Soni

Sept 18 (Reuters) - Materials and energy stocks drove declines in Australian shares on Tuesday as the escalating U.S.-China trade war put pressure on commodity and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.2 percent or 12.2 points to 6,172.8 by 0200 GMT. The benchmark rose 0.3 percent on Monday.

Materials, especially mining stocks, were under the cosh on Tuesday as reports of new U.S. trade tariffs on China pushed industrial metals lower.

Benchmark copper on the London Metal Exchange fell 0.8 percent, driving the metals and mining index 0.9 percent lower.

Dalian iron ore dipped 0.5 percent, pressuring global miner BHP which fell 0.8 percent and was the top drag on the benchmark.

A slide in prices hit gold miners. Newcrest Mining Ltd tumbled as much as 2.4 percent, its biggest intraday percentage fall since August 24, while St Barbara Ltd fell 2.3 percent.

Energy stocks also fell as the Sino-U.S. trade war clouded the oil demand outlook.

“More tariffs means less growth, less growth means less demand for oil, so that’s kind of how the market is seeing it,” said Mathan Somasundaram, Market Portfolio Strategist with Blue Ocean Equities.

Origin Energy Ltd dropped 3.1 percent to a one-week low, while Woodside Petroleum Ltd fell 1 percent.

Health care stocks also fell as investors took profits. Drugmaker CSL Ltd, which has had a stellar year so far marked by multiple all-time highs and a record annual profit, dipped 1.2 percent, while Cochlear Ltd weakened 1.3 percent to its lowest in more than a month.

Bucking the trend, financials stocks rose 0.4 percent, braking the benchmark’s losses.

Index heavyweight Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd firmed 0.8 percent, while top lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia rose 0.4 percent to its highest since August 31.

“Global investors are pulling money out of emerging markets and putting that money into our market as a back-up, so that’s why our banks are remaining relatively positive,” said Somasundaram.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand shares traded unchanged as gains in telecommunication services and industrials were offset by losses in consumer staples.

The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.1 percent or percent or 5.67 points to 9,277.2.

Teleco Spark New Zealand Ltd gained 1.5 percent and was the top boost to the benchmark, while Auckland International Airport Ltd firmed 1.2 percent to a near two-week high.

Earlier in the day, the airport operator said it was considering an offer of fixed rate bonds to New Zealand retail investors and institutional investors.

But dairy operator A2 Milk Company Ltd dipped 1.8 percent and was the biggest drag on the benchmark. (Reporting by Aditya Soni in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shanima A; editing by Eric Meijer)

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