October 20, 2015 / 12:57 AM / 4 years ago

Australia shares drop on miners as China worries hurt

* Miners, energy shares among top losers

* Telecom, healthcare provide support

* Index up 4.6 pct in Oct so far

* Index down over 12 pct from 2015 peak of nearly 6,000 (Adds analysis, quotes, stocks on the move)

By Swati Pandey and Ian Chua

SYDNEY/WELLINGTON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Australian shares fell 0.5 percent on Tuesday as mining and energy firms were pressured by worries about slowing growth in China, but demand for healthcare and telecom stocks limited the market’s downside.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 percent, or 20.81 points, to 5,248.9 by 0024 GMT. The benchmark barely moved on Monday but stayed near a 7-week high hit last week.

The index has risen 4.6 percent in October so far, on track for its best monthly performance since February although it is down more than 12 percent from a high of nearly 6,000-points hit earlier this year.

Worries about a slowdown in China, Australia’s No. 1 trading partner and uncertainty over the timing of a rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve have weighed on the index for much of the year.

“The ASX200 index is presently stuck between two key levels of 5,000 and 5,500,” said Stuart McPhee, senior technical analyst at OANDA Australia and Asia Pacific.

“It has run into some resistance at 5,300 and there is likely to be more resistance above should the index be able to rally higher back,” McPhee added.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining was among the top losers on the index on Tuesday, down 5.5 percent. Mining contractor Worley Parsons, junior miner Arrium and Oz Minerals were down 4-4.9 percent.

Major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto fell 2.5 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

The big banks including National Australia Bank and ANZ Banking Group were off 0.2-1.3 percent.

Energy firms Santos and Woodside Petroleum fell 4.2 percent and 3.5 percent respectively.

Telecoms giant Telstra rose 2 percent while healthcare shares CSL, Resmed and Ansell were up 0.6-1.5 percent.

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New Zealand stocks rose for an eighth session, reaching fresh two-month highs. The NZX 50 index was up 0.4 percent, or 23.5 percent, at 5,858.4, having amassed gains of over 4 percent since Oct. 9 when the rally began.

The upbeat performance came as global demand for risk assets appeared to have improved amid expectations that the Federal Reserve might not hike interest rates this year.

Topping the leader board on Tuesday was Diligent Corp , which announced it had bought BroadLink from Thomson Reuters. Diligent shares climbed as much as 4.4 percent to its highest in over seven months.

Insurance company Tower, fuel distributor Z Energy and Kiwi Property Group were all up just over 1.0 percent each. (Reporting by Swati Pandey and Ian Chua; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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