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Australia, New Zealand: Shares slide as Sino-US trade tension escalates

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares plunged to a one-month low on Tuesday, as investors abandoned equities for safe-haven assets as the Sino-US trade war escalated, with China announcing tariffs on US$60 billion of U.S. goods.

At 0130 GMT, the S&P/ASX 200 index was down 77.40 points or 1.2 per cent to 6,219.90. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Monday.

Worries about the US-China conflict sent global stocks tumbling. China late on Monday said it will impose tariffs on a range of US goods including frozen vegetables and liquefied natural gas, despite US President Donald Trump's warning to not retaliate for his tariff hike on US$200 billion of imports from China .

"Fear and loathing on the stock market this morning... the lead overnight was very negative. Technically, our market is starting to break down. It's hitting the 6,200 mark, a significant level of support," said James McGlew, executive director of corporate stockbroking at Argonaut.

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"All the indicators are looking very negative. Not a lot to go out there and spend your money except if it was on a gold stock," he added.

Financial stocks took a beating for a second session, plunging as much as 2.4 per cent to a one-month low.

The fourth largest lender, National Australia Bank, slipped as much as 5.3 per cent, as shares traded ex-dividend.

All the 'Big Four' banks fell more than 1 per cent, with biggest lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia losing as much as 2 per cent.

The sell-off particularly hit asset managers. IOOF Holdings and Magellan Financial Group were down as much as 5.1 per cent and 4 per cent, respectively.

Copper miners slipped after a sharp drop in base metal prices, as investors fretted over a possible fall in demand for the commodities due to the protracted trade dispute.

Mining behemoth BHP Group fell as much as 2.1 per cent to hit a 3-month low and Rio Tinto shed 1.7 per cent.

Bucking Tuesday's trend, the gold sub-index surged to its biggest intraday percentage gain in over seven months, as investors scurried to the safe haven metal as other shares dropped.

Newcrest Mining, Australia's biggest gold producer, rose 3.8 per cent, while Northern Star Resources advanced 6.2 per cent. Smaller miners such as St Barbara and Saracen Mineral Holdings also surged.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slumped 104.42 points or 1 per cent to 10,025.67.

Infratil was the biggest loser, falling as much as 6.1 per cent after it announced the NZ$3.4 billion (S$3.06 billion) acquisition of Vodafone New Zealand.

REUTERS