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Australia: Shares slump to 1-month lows as China woes, weak metals hurt


[SYDNEY] Australian shares tumbled 2.6 per cent on Tuesday to hit a one-month low, led by broad-based losses amid persistent worries about China's slowing economy as well as sliding metals and oil prices.

The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 131.99 points to 4,981.5 by 0112 GMT, a level not seen since Aug. 25. Tuesday's fall is the biggest percentage loss since Aug 24. The benchmark rose 1.4 per cent on Monday, defying weakness across Asia.

The market has breached the 5,000-points support level on four occasions over the past month only to see a strong rebound. "We wouldn't be surprised to see the (index) print 4700 before it finds any real support, now that 5000 has given way,"said Chris Conway, head of research, Australian Stock Report. "The worry is that the rout is not yet done." The index is now down nearly 9 percent in the September quarter, on track for its worst quarterly performance since 2011. For the month, it is down 4.4 percent, after slipping 8.6 percent in August - its poorest monthly show since the global financial crisis.

Data on Monday showed Chinese industrial companies' profits fell at their fastest rate in four years, rekindling worries about its fragile economy and leading to sharp losses on Wall Street overnight.

China is Australia's biggest export market and problems in the world's second-largest economy has sapped confidence.

Miners fell sharply with BHP Billiton down 6.3 per cent and Rio Tinto skidding 5 per cent.

Major banks including Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ Banking were off 1.8-2.7 per cent.

Energy shares Santos, Origin Energy and Karoon Gas fell about 7 per cent each.

For more individual stocks activity click on New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index skidded 1 percent or 59.89 points to 5,639.24, following a small gain of 0.2 percent the previous session.

The utility, telecommunication and technology sectors led losses with Meridian Energy deeper in the red with a 4.5 per cent drop after its share price broke the 76.4 per cent retracement level of the September move.

Clothing retailer Kathmandu Holdings extended losses after it said annual profits halved. Its stock price slipped to a three-month trough to be down 20 percent this month.

New Zealand securities exchange NZX was among the rare outperformers, up 2 per cent to reach a one-month peak. It plumbed a four-year low five times this month.