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Australia: Materials drag shares to 4-week low; NZ climbs

[BENGALURU] Australian shares slumped to their lowest in more than four weeks on Wednesday, on track for a second straight session of losses, as weak base metal prices hit materials stocks, dragging down the index.

Copper and nickel touched multi-week lows on a steadier dollar, while lead and aluminium prices also ended Tuesday down more than 1 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4 per cent, or 26.3 points, to 6022.3 by 0015 GMT. The benchmark finished down 0.5 lower on Tuesday.

The metals and mining index slipped as much as 2.3 per cent, its biggest fall in four months, with index heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto losing as much as 3.7 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively.

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BHP marked its biggest intraday percentage fall in six months, making it one of the biggest losers on the main index, along with Rio, which faced its biggest fall in almost three months.

"There's a big drop in commodity prices and that will hit everyone. Oil, iron ore - most of the base metals are down so that's pretty much most of the resource sector," said Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist at Blue Ocean Equities.

Miner South32 fell as much as 2.8 per cent, after reporting a 43 per cent plunge in metallurgical coal output for the second quarter due to an outage at one of its mines.

The weak commodity prices are driving the currency a bit lower, Mr Somasundaram added, "which means you'll see a bit of selling in the banks as well."

Australia's financial index hit its lowest in nearly six weeks, down as much as 0.4 per cent, with the 'Big Four' banks shedding between 0.5 per cent and 0.7 per cent.

"We'll probably see a bit of selling. I'd expect it (Australian S&P/ASX 200 index) to close on a relatively weak day," said Mr Somasundaram.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.3 per cent, or 20.87 points, to 8271.41, led by consumer staples and telecoms.

A2 Milk Company Ltd was the top gainer on the index, up as much as 6 percent and on track for its third straight session of gains.

Synlait Milk followed closely, adding as much as 2.7 per cent, its biggest gain in almost four weeks.

REUTERS

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