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Australia shares hit 2-month low as banks falter; NZ stocks slide

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Tuesday, dragged down by weakness in financial and energy stocks as investors remained tentative ahead of next week's meeting of the Federal Reserve.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell for a fourth-straight session, finishing down 11.81 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 5,207.8, its lowest close since July 6.

Markets have been on a shaky footing for much of the past few weeks on speculation on what the Fed might do at its meeting next week. The bets are still on US rates staying on hold next week and probably move higher by year-end.

Financial stocks accounted for more than half of the losses on the benchmark index, with the "Big Four" banks declining between one per cent to 1.3 per cent. Concerns over earnings growth and competition have pressured the sector recently.

Telecom giant Telstra Ltd fell one per cent to close at its lowest since Oct 2013.

Energy stocks dropped to their lowest in over two months as oil prices tumbled, with Oil Search sliding 2 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index, which lost 2.5 per cent on Monday, fell 0.42 per cent, or 30.53 points to its lowest in over a month at 7,249.23.

Utilities and industrials were the biggest drag on the index.

Auckland Airport lost 2.9 per cent while energy company Mercury NZ tumbled 7.4 per cent to its lowest since June.

REUTERS