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Australia: Shares hit 1-mth low


[WELLINGTON] Australian shares plunged to more than one-month lows on Monday as investors fretted about tumbling commodity prices and the risk of a U.S. rate hike in December.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.4 per cent, or 72 points, to 5,143.0 in a broad sell-off by 0055 GMT, marking the benchmark's biggest daily percentage drop since Sept 29. It rose 0.4 per cent on Friday.

"Traders are wary the market may take a turn for the worse in the short term as expectations of a US rate hike increase,"said Mark Lennox, senior private adviser at HC Securities.

The market has fallen in seven out of the last 10 sessions, led by a rout in banking stocks. It is down nearly 5 per cent so far this year.

Australia's four major banks - CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac - posted their sixth straight year of record profits but are preparing for their slowest earnings growth since the global financial crisis as the economy cools and stricter capital regulations bite.

Resources and banks led the declines on Monday with gold miners the worst hit, as the precious metal languished near its lowest level in three months.

Newcrest Mining, Regis Resources, Evolution Mining and Northern Star Resources plunged 6-8 per cent.

Major miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto were off 3.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively.

Chinese iron ore imports dipped 12.3 per cent in October while BHP on Monday said it was reviewing its iron ore guidance after a mine disaster in Brazil.

ANZ was the biggest loser among the major banks, down 1.4 per cent followed by National Australia Bank which was off 1.2 per cent. Westpac and CBA slipped about 0.7 per cent each.