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Australia follows Wall Street lead and slide; NZ tumbles

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares skidded on Wednesday in the wake of a sharper fall in Wall Street due to a selloff in the tech sector.

At the close of trade, the S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.7 per cent - the same percentage it added on Tuesday. Wednesday's fall of 42.8 points left the benchmark at 5,789.5.

All three major US stock indices slumped on Tuesday, as concerns about regulation of social media and autonomous vehicles hit technology shares.

In Australia, financials and materials led the losses.

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The materials index slid 1.4 per cent, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both losing 1 per cent.

Anglo-Australian miner Rio Tinto on Tuesday announced the sale of its remaining Australian coal asset to private equity manager EMR Capital and Indonesia's Adaro Energy for US$2.25 billion.

Financial stocks were also under pressure, slipping 0.8 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks edging down between 0.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent.

The biggest loser on the main index was graphite products supplier Syrah Resources Ltd, finishing nearly 9 per cent down to its lowest close in two weeks.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 1.4 per cent, or 120.04 points, to end at 8,388.08, pulled down by consumer staples and utilities. The percentage drop was the biggest for a day since Feb. 5.

Consumer staples accounted for nearly half the losses, with dairy firm a2 Milk Company Ltd slumping 6.5 per cent.

Subscription television provider SKY Network Television Ltd was the biggest percentage loser on the benchmark as it plunged 7.9 per cent after announcing that it may lose its Rugby World Cup broadcast bid.

New Zealand business sentiment deteriorated in March even as firms' outlook for their own activity improved, an ANZ Bank survey showed on Wednesday.

REUTERS