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Australia, New Zealand: Shares slip as Brexit uncertainty weighs

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Australian shares edged lower on Monday as fresh uncertainty over Brexit reined in risk sentiment, while digital payments stocks slipped further on the central bank's planned review of some practices in the buy-now-pay-later sector.

[BENGALURU] Australian shares edged lower on Monday as fresh uncertainty over Brexit reined in risk sentiment, while digital payments stocks slipped further on the central bank's planned review of some practices in the buy-now-pay-later sector.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to put his Brexit withdrawal deal to the UK parliament on Saturday was derailed after lawmakers voted to withhold a decision on the deal, forcing him to seek a third postponement of Britain's departure from the bloc.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 14.5 points to 6,635.6 by 0007 GMT. The benchmark fell 0.5 per cent on Friday.

"Focus will be on the House of Commons vote again in the next couple of days and also how the EU responds. This is keeping an element of uncertainty in the markets, which doesn't help," said Stephen Daghlian, market analyst at CommSec.

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Meanwhile, technology stocks continued their sharp fall after the Reserve Bank of Australia said on Thursday it would in 2020 review "policy implications" from no surcharge rules in the hugely popular buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) industry.

Shares of BNPL bellwether Afterpay Touch Group Ltd slipped as much as 8.1 per cent, although the company said on Monday it was not currently part of the central bank's review.

Its shares retraced to be down just 2.2 per cent, but the stock has still fallen more than 20 per cent in the past four sessions since brokerage UBS initiated coverage of Afterpay with a target price that was half the value of the company's close on the previous day.

Software company Wisetech Global slipped as much as 13.1 per cent before requesting a trading halt to respond to claims made in a research report.

A weaker US dollar continued to put a cap on healthcare stocks, most of which earn their revenue overseas. CSL shed 0.7 per cent while Cochlear gave up 1.2 per cent.

Offering some relief, resource stocks inched higher, with rare earths miner Lynas Corp surging 7.1 per cent after an upbeat quarterly report.

The company posted a jump in sales revenue against the preceding quarter, and noted increased interest from magnet makers in the United States and Europe for long-term contracts of its products.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index reversed gains to slip 0.2 per cent or 23.72 points to 11,043.4.

Tourism Holdings tumbled 13 per cent and was on track for its worst daily drop in over 6 months, after it said it would not provide specific guidance for fiscal 2020 due to volatility in the US market.

REUTERS