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Australia, NZ shares end lower as Sino-US trade war intensifies

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares closed at a one-month low on Tuesday, as investors abandoned equities for safe-haven assets due to escalating Sino-US trade tensions.

China announced tariff increases on US$60 billion of US goods on Monday in retaliation for Washington imposing higher tariffs on US$200 billion of imports from China on Friday.

After falling to just shy of the 6,200 point support level, the S&P/ASX 200 index pared losses to end down 57.7 points or 0.92 per cent at 6,239.90. The benchmark fell 0.2 per cent on Monday.

"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 on except if it was on a gold stock," he added.

Financial stocks took a beating for a second session, ending down 1.8 per cent at a one-month low. The fourth-largest lender, National Australia Bank, ended down 4.7 per cent, as shares traded ex-dividend.

The selloff particularly hit asset managers. IOOF Holdings and Challenger Ltd closed 6 per cent and 3.4 per cent lower, respectively.

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

Mining behemoth BHP Group was off 1.1 per cent at close, however, rival Rio Tinto reversed course from early losses to end slightly higher.

Bucking the trend, the gold sub-index surged 3.4 per cent to end at a one-month closing high.

Australia's biggest gold miner Newcrest Mining rose 1.8 per cent, while Northern Star Resources advanced 4.3 per cent.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed 56.48 points or 0.6 per cent lower to end at 10,070.35.

Infratil Ltd was among biggest losers, ending 2.6 per cent lower after it announced the NZ$3.4 billion acquisition of Vodafone New Zealand. 

REUTERS