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Australia: Miners and banks drag shares lower

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[SYDNEY] Australian shares fell on Wednesday, as miners came under pressure from falling iron ore prices while negative sentiment in the market spurred selling in banks.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed 1.6 per cent, or 91.55 points, lower to end the session at 5,665.70.

The drop in Chinese steel futures on Tuesday after a four-day rise weighed on iron ore which dragged metals and mining stocks to their lowest in more than a month and a half.

Miners BHP Billiton Ltd was down 3.8 per cent, its lowest close in nearly nine months while Rio Tinto was down 2.9 per cent.

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Financial stocks posted a second session of losses with the country's "Big Four" lenders losing between 1.7 and 2.7 per cent.

Energy stocks tumbled 2.6 per cent following a decline in oil prices. Additionally, the stocks were also hurt by the Australian government's decision to delay proposed curb on exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from eastern Australia.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd dropped 2.1 per cent while Santos the operator of the Gladstone LNG plant in Queensland, the only LNG producer that has been taking gas out of the domestic market to meet its export contracts, hit a more than year low. "The energy stocks are not being helped by the decision of the Australian government to put a limit on gas exports next year, which increases political risk in the sector," said Ric Spooner, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.8 per cent, or 59.42 points, lower to finish the session at 7,527.11 Consumer cyclicals lost the most with Fletcher Building Ltd falling 2.8 per cent.

The next big event is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's rate decision on Thursday, in which the central bank is expected to keep rates steady.

REUTERS

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